By Cameron Stephenson

October 8th 2012, 8:00am

(Child exposed to thalidomide.)

On Friday, August 31, 2012, German pharmaceutical giant Gruenenthal issued a public apology to victims of its late 1950s early 1960s morning sickness “wonder-drug”, Thalidomide.  Originally developed in 1957, Thalidomide was knowingly rushed onto the market prematurely so that maximum financial gain could be realized without any regard to the permanent damage it would cause to human guinea pig consumers.

The public apology, offered exactly 50 years to the day after the bad drug was removed from the market for causing countless congenital birth defects, is receiving harsh responses from Thalidomide victims’ organizations, such as UK based The Thalidomide Trust, dedicated to seeking a permanent financial settlement for the victims still coping with the health problems and disabilities caused by the bad drug.  This organization, and many others, are still wondering after all these years, where is the financial compensation for the victims?  Thanks for the verbal apology…I guess, but if you really want to say you’re sorry and at least even begin to try and mean it, start by compensating the people whose lives you have ruined at a minimum.  As I see it, this apology is paramount to 50 year delayed slap in the face.  It has been estimated that more than 10,000 children, born in forty-six countries, had deformities due to thalidomide use by their respective mothers during pregnancy.  Other estimates suggest worldwide victims as high as 20,000.

The Thalidomide birth defect crisis has long been cited by proponents for consumer safety as a prime example of how Big Pharma places profits over people in effort to hurry a drug onto the marketplace before it has been adequately tested, and before its adverse effects have been fully realized.  With all of the bad drug and medical device litigation in the United States these days, it is a wonder why we as a society have not learned from past experience the extent to which Big Pharma will go to make money to the detriment of the very people they claim to be helping.

So, if Big Pharma is not protecting us, then who is?  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) you say?  Take five minutes and Google this phrase before you put any more faith in the FDA:  “FDA Big Pharma Conflict of Interest”.  Or, just ask former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul what he meant when he stated in a recent interview that, “the FDA and the drug companies are in bed together and they squeeze out competitors and build up their monopolies…”  With so many legitimate questions out there regarding the alleged independent nature of the FDA and its proclaimed commitment to protecting U.S. consumers, the public has been left in limbo regarding the truth about the safety of the drugs they are consuming each and every day.

My advice:  Don’t take a drug until it has been on the market for a minimum of five years.  At least by then there should be some preliminary understanding of its side effects, having either not been revealed during less than adequate clinical trials in development, or having been outright hidden from us all by its manufacturer.

Cameron Stephenson is a lawyer with the Levin, Papantonio law firm in Pensacola, Florida, and handles medical malpractice and other wrongful death cases.  He has devoted his legal practice to fighting for the rights of Florida’s injured patient