German firm wins appeal in Spain thalidomide case

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

MADRID (AP) — A Spanish court on Wednesday accepted a German pharmaceutical company's appeal against a ruling that had ordered it to pay compensation to 22 Spaniards who blame their disabilities on the drug thalidomide.

Madrid's provincial court said the statute of limitations for the plaintiffs' case had expired.

In November 2013, the court had ordered Gruenenthal to pay 20,000 euros ($25,500) for each percentage point of disability of the victims as recognized by Spain's Health Ministry.

Thalidomide was a sedative that some doctors prescribed between 1950 and 1960 for morning sickness. Thousands of babies whose mothers used it were born worldwide with abnormally short limbs and in some cases without arms, legs or hips.

The Spanish Association of Thalidomide Victims said it felt let down by the decision and did not understand how the court now ruled the statute of limitations had expired but did not do so not during the trial. It said it would continue fighting its case but did not immediately clarify if they intended appealing the decision.

The association said they had stood to gain 35 million euros ($44 million) in the original ruling, much less than the 204 million euros they had initially sought.

Gruenenthal said in a statement the "the court confirms that the plaintiffs weren't able to prove their claims and that fair proceedings aren't possible after more than 50 years." It added that there existed "effective and established options for people harmed by products containing thalidomide to get financial support from Gruenenthal or its distributors."