Was thalidomide developed before 1954?

Conspiracy theories and “K17”

Thalidomide tragedy is surrounded by questions. Misinterpretations follow details about the development of the drug.

In contrast to what original documents from inventors Kunz and Keller show 1+2, one theory suggests that thalidomide was developed before 1954.  

Grünenthal did have a common stockpile registration for the trademark Contergan for a range of potential products such as antiseptics in 1952. The drug, however, was only developed in 1954 and internally as well as externally called “K17” as documents show. It was only in 1956 that the trademark Contergan was allocated to certain products containing thalidomide.

Thalidomide Patent

Kunz and Keller’s testimonies during the Contergan trial at Alsdorf, as well as their laboratory journals, confirm that Grünenthal developed the agent in 1954.  Theorists allege, however, that thalidomide had already been tested on humans in the 1940’s. In truth, the patent says nothing about tests on humans.3

Grünenthal’s connection to the Nazi past

Some have tried to establish links between thalidomide’s development and the Nazi past of Grünenthal employees Dr. Mückter and Otto Ambros. Ambros couldn’t have brought thalidomide to Grünenthal simply because he only became a consultant for Grünenthal in 1972, more than ten years after the launch of the product. Dr. Mückter was researching typhus vaccinations during World War II, and an arrest warrant was issued by a court in Krakow for stealing laboratory equipment from the Krakow hospital when fleeing.4 A research report from the University of Münster published in 2016 assessed the validity of the speculations on a link between Nazi Germany and Thalidomide. The historian concluded that these are "theoretical conspiracy allegations without robust evidence." 5 (see original PhD thesis in German here). In conclusion and based on the evidence, the theory that thalidomide was invented earlier than 1954 is groundless.


online:  03 Apr 2018