Thalidomide chronology

Until the mid-1950s There are no regulations in the Federal Republic of Germany governing the development, production or sale of medicines. There is no German Drug Law/Medicines Act and no Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) or similar agency.
1954 Grünenthal obtains a patent for thalidomide, the active drug substance in the product called Contergan in Germany.
1 October 1957 Thalidomide is launched on the West German market and sold under the brand name Contergan.
Until withdrawn, thalidomide is sold in a total of 46 countries under various brand names.
October 1959 First reports suggesting thalidomide might cause nerve damage in the hands and feet (polyneuropathy).
1961 Grünenthal amends the package leaflet disclosing the side effect and applies for prescription-only status for thalidomide in May 1961 on account of the polyneuropathy.
16 November 1961 A Hamburg-based paediatrician, Dr. Widukind Lenz, voices the first suspicion that deformities in unborn children may be associated with thalidomide.
An Australian gynaecologist, Dr. William G. McBride, expresses the same suspicion at approximately the same time.
27 November 1961 Grünenthal withdraws thalidomide from the West German market.
1962 Scientists succeed for the first time in demonstrating teratogenicity of the active drug substance thalidomide in animal experiments in white New Zealand rabbits.
1964 An Israeli physician, Jacob Sheskin, discovers thalidomide's effectiveness in treating leprosy.
27 May 1968 Legal proceedings are instigated against nine Grünenthal executives and research employees in Alsdorf near Aachen.
April 1970 While criminal proceedings are still ongoing, Grünenthal begins negotiations with the joint plaintiffs and voluntarily pledges to pay DM 100 million to thalidomide victims.
18 December 1970 The case is discontinued against the defendants.
1972 The West German government enacts a law setting up a public foundation called Disabled Children's Relief Foundation.
The government paid DM 100 million into the Foundation and Grünenthal contributed DM 114 million. Grünenthal is held harmless and indemnified against any other claims
Prior to the mid-1980s A number of legal challenges are brought unsuccessfully challenging the Foundation as the sole means of obtaining compensation.
1990s Scientists discover that thalidomide has anti-inflammatory effects on the immune system and inhibits the formation of new blood vessels. The drug is used to treat severe illnesses including AIDS and cancer.
1998 - present Other companies distribute thalidomide, ensuring the availability of other sources to meet the medical need.
June 2003 Grünenthal stops supplying thalidomide. At the request of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Grünenthal had been supplying thalidomide tablets since the 1970s to support leprosy hospitals in the treatment of a leprosy complication called ENL reaction. Strict conditions applied in order to prevent thalidomide from being given to pregnant women. Grünenthal supplied the drug on a not-for-profit basis.
December 2005 As thalidomide victims are now adults, the Disabled Children's Relief Foundation is renamed Contergan Foundation for People with Disabilities.
December 2007 First meeting between Grünenthal and representatives of the German Federal Association of Thalidomide Victims.
February 2008 Grünenthal works with the German government and the German Federal Association of Thalidomide Victims towards a collaborative solution to improve the situation of thalidomide victims.
May 2008 Grünenthal announces a voluntary payment of €50 million into the existing Contergan foundation (Conterganstiftung für behinderte Menschen), based in Germany. With the move, Grünenthal aims to double the Contergan Foundation's capital stock to enable the once-annual payment of an additional personal sum to thalidomide victims. The German Federal Association of Contergan Victims sees the model as another step in the right direction.
May 2009 Revision of the Contergan Foundation Act creates the legal basis enabling Grünenthal GmbH to pay the voluntary sum of €50 million into the foundation to improve the financial situation of thalidomide victims.
July 2009 Grünenthal transfers the voluntary sum of €50 million to the Contergan Foundation.
The Foundation now has a capital stock of €100 million for annual special payments to thalidomide victims. As a result, in addition to a monthly pension of up to €1116, individuals damaged by thalidomide stand to receive annual payments of €460 to €3680 for the next 25 years. The pension and special payments are provided regardless of any other social benefits thalidomide victims receive. The top-up on payments puts them in a significantly more secure financial position than before in Germany and in comparison with other countries.
Grünenthal aspires to continue engaging in constructive dialogue with thalidomide victim.
2010 About €500 million has been paid to thalidomide victims to date.