Chemie Grünenthal, as it was called in the beginning, was a small family owned drug company that created Thalidomide in post-war Germany, near Aachen, close to the Belgium border.
When Grünenthal put Thalidomide on the German market in 1957, they claimed it was a “completely safe” and “non-toxic” sedative and a remedy for morning sickness suffered by pregnant women. They marketed the drug aggressively and engaged distributors which led to huge sales – not only in Germany but also around the world. Between 1957 and 1962 Grünenthal and its licensed distributors successfully sold the “wonder drug” in 47 countries under different brand names.
It did seem to help some people with nausea and aid sleeping but what the public didn’t know was that Grünenthal had never actually done the appropriate clinical trials and tests to see if the drug really was as non-toxic and safe as they claimed. Although marketed as safe for nursing and pregnant women Grünenthal never tested it on expecting mothers. Neither had they done reproductive tests on animals.