When Grünenthal’s chief executive Harald Stock offered an apology to Thalidomide survivors in 2012 during a public speech, Martin Johnson was not at all impressed. Johnson welcomed the fact that the drug manufacturer was finally starting to acknowledge some responsibility. However, he didn’t like how Stock was still perpetuating the myth that nobody at Grünenthal could have done anything to prevent or stop the epidemic of malformed babies all over the world. Johnson, who at the time was the director of the UK Thalidomide Trust, said there was much evidence that the German company did in fact know about the dangers associated with the drug.
Martin Johnson has been an advocate for survivors for many years. In 2000 he became the Director of the UK Thalidomide Trust, after a successful career as a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Also thanks to his commitments and campaigning efforts, compensation payments to survivors in Britain have been significantly increased in the past decade. Johnson was instrumental in making sure that all benefits are exempt from tax. He also secured larger payments from the British government and Diageo, the legacy owner of Distillers (Distillers was the original distributor of Thalidomide in Britain). Today British Thalidomiders receive an annual average of £50,000.
More recently Johnson has been focusing on historical research about the origins of Thalidomide and Grünenthal’s connection to Germany’s Nazi past. His findings are soon to be published in a book.