April 26, 2013 / 10:35 AM / in 7 years

Germany increases pensions for thalidomide victims

BERLIN (Reuters) - German victims of thalidomide, a drug that caused birth defects in thousands of babies around the world, will get up to six times more money from the state in pensions, the German parliament decided late on Thursday.

Thalidomide, invented by the German firm Gruenenthal, was marketed internationally to pregnant women in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a treatment for morning sickness. About 10,000 babies were born around the world with defects caused by the drug, mostly malformed limbs or missing arms or legs.

German victims of the drug, which was sold under the name Contergan in Germany and elsewhere as Distaval, have until now received a monthly state pension of up to 1,152 euros ($1,500).

The worst-affected victims will now get a maximum of 6,912 euros per month from the German government backdated to January 1.

Around 2,700 victims of thalidomide are entitled to pensions from the government.

“The situation of Contergan victims is characterized by the very painful effects - and late effects - of their disability,” a draft law approved by the Bundestag lower house of parliament read.

“The loss of ability and skills has accelerated in recent years,” it said, pointing to a study completed in 2012 showing there was an urgent need to secure more support for the victims.

In September Gruenenthal apologized for what had happened to the victims and unveiled a commemorative statue in a move that victims said was too little too late. The company said it had paid about 500 million euros to victims by 2010.

($1 = 0.7689 euros)

Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Alistair Lyon

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