Our responsibility:
How Grünenthal supports people affected by Thalidomide

People affected by the Thalidomide tragedy, who were known as “Thalidomide babies” in the 1960s, are now in their late fifties or early sixties. Because of their injuries, they have lived with a wide range of disabilities, which in some cases are extremely severe. Many are facing increasing health problems and mobility issues as they grow older.

The Thalidomide tragedy will always be a part of our company’s history. We will never forget what happened, and we deeply regret the global consequences for the people affected by Thalidomide and their families.

On this page, we provide an overview of how Grünenthal currently supports Thalidomide-affected people today and what support systems are available to them.

An international support system for Thalidomide-affected people

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, products containing Thalidomide were sold by Grünenthal and our marketing partners and licensees at the time under names including Contergan, Distaval, Softenon, and other brands.

Today, there are various forms of support for people who were harmed by these Thalidomide-containing products. This support differs from country to country.

  • In countries where Grünenthal or our marketing partners at the time sold Thalidomide-containing products, financial support is available from the German Contergan Foundation. This applies in Germany and also in 37 additional countries, including Spain, Belgium, Austria, Chile, and Brazil.
  • In countries where other companies marketed Thalidomide-containing products independently and without permission from Grünenthal, Thalidomide-affected people are generally supported by their respective country, for example, in Italy and parts of Spain.
  • In countries where licensees marketed their own Thalidomide-containing products, these companies provide financial support, sometimes together with the local government. Such arrangements exist, for instance, in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Sweden.
  • The benefits of the “Grünenthal Foundation for the Support of Thalidomide-affected People” are available to all affected people who are recognised by the Contergan Foundation or according to comparable criteria, for example through the “Thalidomide Trust” in the United Kingdom. To date, affected people from 16 countries have accessed the benefits offered by the Grünenthal Foundation.
Infographic: Sources of financial aid for Thalidomide-affected people

Sources of financial aid for Thalidomide-affected people

The Grünenthal Foundation for the Support of Thalidomide-affected People

Grünenthal Foundation team: The Grünenthal Foundation team focusses on the needs of Thalidomide affected-people

Grünenthal Foundation team: The Grünenthal Foundation team focusses on the needs of Thalidomide-affected people.

The Grünenthal Foundation was created in 2011. Its goal is to improve the lives of people affected by Thalidomide worldwide. Many affected people face enormous challenges as they try to shape their lives and daily routines in a self-determined and independent way.

Financial support programmes were established in all of the countries where Thalidomide was marketed by Grünenthal or its licensing partners at that time. This support is frequently backed by state programmes.

Through our dialogue with Thalidomide-affected people, we have learned that this support is sometimes not enough. For this reason, we created the Grünenthal Foundation for the Support of Thalidomide-affected People (called the “Grünenthal Foundation” hereafter). It supplements the international support system for affected people, and finances projects that aim to support Thalidomide-affected people in accomplishing daily tasks and participating in social life.

Since it was established, the Grünenthal Foundation has provided support in more than 2,500 cases. We have also been able to constantly expand our support over the past few years through ongoing dialogue with Thalidomide-affected people.

The services of the Grünenthal Foundation: Personalised support

Over the course of their lives, Thalidomide-affected people have learned to compensate for the functions of damaged body parts by using others. Over decades, this compensation has led to further harm in many cases, especially in the area of the back and hips. Many Thalidomide-affected people have increasingly lost mobility as a result, and encounter obstacles in mastering their everyday routines within their own homes or when travelling outside of their homes.

Through many in-depth conversations with people affected by Thalidomide, the Grünenthal Foundation’s employees have learned the importance of mobility and an independent life at home. Based on this understanding, our support has focused on financing vehicle modifications and adaptations of the home environment.

In particular, independence within a person’s own home involves preparing meals and supporting personal hygiene, as well as freedom from barriers.

  • The kitchen is the heart of the home for many people. Through personalised adaptations the kitchen can be made more accessible for disabled people in the long term. The Grünenthal Foundation helps with the corresponding modifications.
  • Another important aspect of independent living is the self-reliant accomplishment of personal hygiene. For this reason, the Grünenthal Foundation also finances modifications of bathrooms. These efforts focus on walk-in showers, non-slip floor tiles, height-adjustable wash basins, full-body dryers, and foot-operated fixtures.
  • Another central area of our support focuses on mobility outside of the home. Most Thalidomide-affected people find it difficult to use local public transportation. Having their own car is key to preserving social contact and participating in social life. For this reason, we also support the financing of passenger car modifications or the purchase of adapted bicycles.

The foundation is always open, beyond these services, to understanding individual needs and finding opportunities for special support. It is always available for an exchange of ideas. For more information about other support projects and foundation contacts, go to the foundation’s website.

The German “Contergan Foundation for Disabled People”

The Contergan Foundation, named after the medicine containing Thalidomide in Germany, was established in 1972. Since then, the foundation has provided Thalidomide-affected people worldwide with financial assistance such as monthly pensions and a one-time annual payment from the Fund for Special Needs, which is made available by the federal government.

As a federal foundation under public law, the foundation is overseen by the federal Ministry for the Family, Seniors, Women and Children. It acts completely independently from Grünenthal.

To establish the foundation, Grünenthal and the federal government each contributed 50 million euros (100 million German marks at that time) as part of an agreement. In 2009, Grünenthal voluntarily paid an additional 50 million euros into the Contergan Foundation.

Today, Thalidomide-affected people can still submit an application for recognition. The Medical Committee of the Contergan Foundation then checks whether all criteria required for benefits have been met.

The ongoing government support and the Grünenthal contribution form a reliable support system for people affected by Thalidomide in Germany and in an additional 37 countries. In countries where Grünenthal issued licenses to market Thalidomide, there are comparable support foundations set up by these licensees and/or the local governments.

For more information, go to the website of the Contergan Foundation.

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