Thalidomide was originally marketed as a sedative. From the late 1950s it was prescribed to women around the world to combat morning sickness. Several children of mothers who took the drug during pregnancy were born with abnormally short limbs and in some cases without any arms, legs or hips. The drug was withdrawn from the British and German markets in late 1961. But it continued to be sold in countries such as Spain, Canada and Japan for several more months.
Thalidomide is estimated to have caused deformities in 10,000 to 20,000 babies in some 40 countries. Avite, an association representing Spaniards born with severe defects after their mothers took the drug during their pregnancies to treat morning sickness, estimates that up to 3,000 babies may have been born with deformities in Spain because of the drug.
The association brought forward a case against the company Grunenthal in 2012. It has sought a compensation of 204 million euros for its members. However, Spain's Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that the German maker of pregnancy drug thalidomide does not have to compensate Spaniards who suffered birth defects from it.
Despite a recommendation from the public prosecutor's office that it accept the plaintiffs' appeal, the Supreme Court justices voted eight to one to uphold the lower court's ruling. But the court has left the door open for future civil claims of compensation based on the appearance of unknown damage or aggravation of existing damage.
A lawyer for the victims, Ignacio Marinez, said, "We will continue the fight and will go before the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights."