Key dates in history of thalidomide

Associated Press
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FILE - An April 21, 1969 photo from files showing a view of a laboratory of the pharmaceutical company "Chemie Gruenenthal", in Stolberg, near Aachen, West Germany, during an animal experiment April 21, 1969 as prosecuters came to inspect the manufacturer of the drug Thalidomide, which was prescribed by doctors as harmless sleeping drug to pregnant women and caused the miscarriage and birth of thousands of crippled children. The maker of a notorious drug that caused thousands of babies to be born with shortened arms and legs or no limbs at all in the 1960's has finally apologized. Thalidomide was given to pregnant women to combat morning sickness but led to a wave of birth defects in Europe, Australia, Canada, Japan and the U.S. Despite the words of contrition, the drug maker Gruenenthal has refused to settle lawsuits, the most recent involving class actions in Australia. (AP Photo/File)

BERLIN (AP) — 1946— Gruenenthal, a German pharmaceutical, is founded in Stolberg.

1954 — Gruenenthal discovers and patents thalidomide.

1957 — Thalidomide is first sold as Contergan in Germany. It is mainly prescribed to treat anxiety and morning sickness in pregnant women.

1959 — Gruenenthal is first warned by a gynecologist that using the drug leads to deformities in babies.

1960 — U.S. Food and Drug Administration demands a toxicity study for thalidomide to prove it is safe in humans.

1960s — Thalidomide is marketed in Europe, Australia, Canada and Japan. The drug was never approved in the U.S.

1961 — Doctors in Germany, Australia and the U.K. notice a significant spike in the number of babies born with missing or shortened limbs. The birth defects are eventually linked to thalidomide and the drug is pulled from the market.

1962 — U.S. President John F. Kennedy awards FDA official Dr. Frances O. Kelsey the Distinguished Federal Civilian Service Medal for her diligence in blocking the approval of thalidomide.

1968 — German case launched by lawyers of families affected by thalidomide against Gruenenthal owner Hermann Wirtz and eight employees.

1970 — Gruenenthal offers to settle the case for 100 million Deutschmark.

1972 — Creation of foundation for German thalidomide victims. German state adds 100 million Deutschmarks to fund. In 2009, Gruenenthal adds a further €150 million; fund totals €150 million.

1998 — Thalidomide is approved by the FDA for treating a complication of leprosy.

2006 — Thalidomide is approved for treating multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer.

2012 — Australian thalidomide survivor wins multimillion settlement from British distributor, German maker Gruenenthal refuses to settle.

2012 — Gruenenthal apologizes to mothers who took the drug and asks for forgiveness.