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What is Thalidomide?

Thalidomide was once talked about as a drug that could help people suffering from multiple myeloma, and it was also used to treat people with Leprosy. It was considered a wonder drug in the 50s, used to treat insomnia, coughs, colds, morning sickness and headaches. But it had tragic effects for expecting mothers and new born children.

Thalidomide was prescribed to many women to help combat morning sickness and it was widely available right across the globe. It was created by the pharmaceutical company Grünenthal, but in 1961 it was withdrawn from almost every country.

The use of the drug by mothers was associated with birth defects, with many children being born without limbs. It is estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 children were affected by the use of Thalidomide, including around 2,000 children in the UK. However many children died within their first few months and only around 450 survivors are alive in the UK today.

English actor and musician Mat Fraser was one of the people affected by the drug - he was born with phocomelia in both arms. He played drums for Coldplay at the 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony.

After over 50 years, Thalidomide victims have finally received an apology for their suffering. Gruenenthal released an apology and said that the drug's possible side-effects "could not be detected" before it was marketed.

Harald Stock, Gruenenthal's chief executive, unveiled a bronze statue of symbolising a child born without limbs and said: "We ask for forgiveness that for nearly 50 years we didn't find a way of reaching out to you from human being to human being."

However few of those affected are satisfied with the apology, with the president of Thalidomide UK, Freddie Astbury, saying: "So we welcome the apology, but how far do they want to go? It's no good apologising if they won't open discussions on compensation. They've got to seriously consider financial compensation for these people."

Some compensation has been paid to sufferers mainly in Germany.

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