In our film NO LIMITS, airing on CBC’s documentary channel and in international distribution with Sideways Films from London, Academy Award winning director John Zaritsky picks up the stories of Thalidomide survivors for his third film on the subject and finally unveils a sinister and long hidden complicity by the drug manufacturer.
NO LIMITS reveals the true story that Grünenthal, the German inventor and manufacturer of Thalidomide knew about debilitating effects of its drug on babies but continued to sell the pills to unsuspecting pregnant women around the world who were taking a drug they were told was ‘safe’, to offset their morning sickness, and who ended up giving birth to thousands of severely disabled children. Previously sealed court documents have now come to light that reveal Grünenthal’s culpability.
Since Thalidomide was released 50 years ago, the Wirtz family, owners of Grünenthal, has accumulated a personal fortune in the billions, and Grünenthal now employs 4200 people in 26 countries with annual revenues approaching $1.3 billion. But they have not taken full financial responsibility for the disastrous effect of Thalidomide and only just recently (2012) have made a half-hearted apology when faced with the release of these long sealed court documents as a result of a court case in Australia. Despite the overwhelming evidence they still refuse to pay any of the $89 million compensation awarded to Australian victims.
“I think this is the biggest and best story of my career…after more than 25 years of working on this subject, I finally have been able to learn the whole truth about the thalidomide tragedy, thanks to the documents uncovered by the Australian lawyers for Lynette Rowe.”
Director, John Zaritsky has a track record of being able to delve in to the hearts and minds of people with disabilities. In his two previous films on the subject John introduced us to two Canadian Thalidomiders, Alvin Law and Paul Murphy, who were in their 20s and 30s and picking up the story with them now in their 50s and facing the realities of old age. NO LIMITS features six other Thalidomiders, from the United States, Britain, Germany and Australia.
NO LIMITS will also serve as a cautionary tale of what happens to individuals when our society and our governments let their guard down pressured by international drug companies to quickly move and approve. In John’s second film, Extraordinary People, he documented the return of Thalidomide by a small New Jersey biotech company in 1998. With the support of the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada, the New Jersey company, Celgene, succeeded in gaining approval from the federal drug administration in Washington to bring Thalidomide back onto the market as a treatment for dying cancer patients suffering from multiple myeloma in North America and Europe Charging as much as $10,000 a month to some patients, sales of Thalidomide have soared and Celgene’s value has increased from 100 million dollars to 100 billion dollars. But unfortunately and tragically Thalidomide derivatives are also being manufactured by other drug companies operating and distributing in third world countries and consequently Thalidomide babies are still being born today.