The authors say that thalidomide (under the trade name Contergan) was first approved in Germany on 1 October 1957 and sold as an over-the-counter sedative.

As a matter of fact, it was approved only in the former German Federal Republic (West Germany). In the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), the import of thalidomide was banned for reasons of safety by the central committee of experts on medical drugs (Zentraler Gutachterausschuss für Arzneimittel, ZGA), chaired by pharmacologist Prof. Friedrich Jung (Humboldt University, Berlin). In spite of the ban, the GDR actually had some children affected by thalidomide—the result of tax-deductible gift parcels to the poor brothers and sisters in the East, which the customs officers presumably overlooked.

Furthermore, the article says that the first publications by McBride and Lenz appeared shortly thereafter [after the withdrawal of Contergan from the German market on 27 November 1961].

The Hamburg-based pediatrician Dr. Widukind Lenz, however, had already registered his suspicions on 18 November 1961 at a conference of the the association of pediatricians in the Rhein area and Westphalia (Rheinisch-Westfälische Kinderärzte-Vereinigung), of a possible association between the sedative and malformations, and he had contacted the manufacturers, Chemie Grünenthal, on 15 November 1961 by telephone in order to draw their attention to this.

It took 50 years until Grünenthal officially apologized to the victims of the thalidomide catastrophe. By then, only half of those affected were still alive.

DOI: 10.3238/arztebl.2017.0488a

Prof. Dr. med. Frank P. Meyer

Wanzleben-Börde

U_F_Meyer@gmx.de

1.
Niecke A, Peters K, Samel C, et al.: Mental disorders in people affected by thalidomide—a cross-sectional study of prevalence and psychosocial needs. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2017; 114: 168–74 VOLLTEXT
1. Niecke A, Peters K, Samel C, et al.: Mental disorders in people affected by thalidomide—a cross-sectional study of prevalence and psychosocial needs. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2017; 114: 168–74 VOLLTEXT

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