A hand holding a business card of the Grünenthal Foundation

Our responsibility:
How Grünenthal supports people affected by Thalidomide

People affected by Thalidomide, who were known as “Thalidomide babies” in the 1960s, are now in their 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.

We will never forget what happened, and we deeply regret the severe consequences for those affected and their families. We take our responsibility to help these people very seriously. Our Grünenthal Foundation supports affected individuals and families by funding projects that contribute to a more independent life. Through the foundation, we aim to provide help where it is most needed and remain in close contact with people whose lives have been impacted by Thalidomide in Germany and other countries.

In November 2021, Dr. Michael Wirtz, a shareholder of Grünenthal, apologized to those affected and their families on behalf of his family. From many conversations with this community, we understand the importance of this personal statement. Therefore, we value this gesture as a further step on the chosen path of dialogue between the affected people, Grünenthal, and the shareholder family. The effects can still be felt today. We are committed to keeping the memory alive by continuously expanding the information we make available.

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

An international support system for Thalidomide-affected people

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, products containing Thalidomide were sold by Grünenthal as well as our distribution 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 affected by these Thalidomide-containing products. This support differs from country to country.

  • In countries where Grünenthal or its distribution partners at the time sold Thalidomide-containing products, financial support is available from the German Federal Contergan Foundation. This applies to Germany and 37 additional countries such as Austria, Belgium, Brazil, and Chile.
  • In countries where other companies marketed Thalidomide-containing products independently and without permission from Grünenthal, Thalidomide-affected people are generally supported by their respective countries. This is the case in Italy and in Spain, for example.
  • 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 Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Sweden.
  • In the United States, tests by Grünenthal’s licensees were still ongoing and FDA approval was pending when the product was withdrawn from the market in late November 1961.
  • The benefits of the Grünenthal Foundation for the Support of Thalidomide-affected People are available to all affected people who are recognized by the German Federal Contergan Foundation or by comparable institutions, for example, through the Thalidomide Trust in the United Kingdom. To date, affected people from 17 countries have accessed the benefits of the Grünenthal Foundation. If you have any questions or want to apply for support, you can contact the Grünenthal Foundation here.

Sources of financial support for Thalidomide-affected people

Grünenthal Infographic: Sources of financial support 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

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

Many affected people face enormous challenges as they try to shape their lives and daily routines in a self-determined and independent way. The Grünenthal Foundation works to improve the living situation of people affected by Thalidomide sustainably and quickly.

After the “Hardship Initiative” was founded by Grünenthal in 2011, the Grünenthal Foundation was established in 2012. Since its inception, the foundation has provided support in more than 4,500 cases, mainly in Germany and in 17 other countries, such as the UK.

Through many in-depth conversations with people affected by Thalidomide, the employees taking care of the Grünenthal Foundation have learned about the importance of mobility and an independent life at home. Based on this understanding, our support has focused on financing measures in these areas:

  • The kitchen is the heart of the home for many people. Through personalized 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 financing passenger car modifications or the purchase of adapted bicycles.

Learn more about the Grünenthal Foundation on its website.

The German Federal “Contergan Foundation for Disabled People”

The German Federal Contergan Foundation, named after the medicine containing Thalidomide in Germany, was established in 1972. Since then, the foundation has provided Thalidomide-affected people with financial assistance such as monthly pensions and a one-time payment from the Fund for Special Needs, made available by the federal government. Additionally, it supports affected people from other countries if they are recognized as affected by a Thalidomide-containing product from Grünenthal or one of its direct distributors.

As a federal foundation under public law, the German Federal Contergan Foundation is overseen by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. It acts entirely independently from Grünenthal.

To establish the foundation, Grünenthal and the German government each contributed 50 million euros (100 million German marks at that time). The payment was made in the context of an agreement between the company and the representatives of those affected in 1970. In 2009, Grünenthal voluntarily contributed an additional 50 million euros.

Today, affected people can still apply for recognition. The Medical Committee of the German Federal Contergan Foundation then checks whether the criteria required for benefits are met.

The ongoing government support and the Grünenthal contribution form a reliable support system for people affected by the product in Germany and 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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