Thalidomide Australia Incorporated

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Thalidomide Timeline


  • Thalidomide is created by Chemie Grunenthal, a German pharmaceutical company.


  • 25 December: The first Thalidomide-affected baby is born in Germany to a Chemie Grunenthal employee.


  • In August, Thalidomide is licensed for distribution in Australia & New Zealand by Distillers Company (Biochemicals) Ltd (‘Distillers’), under the brand name Distaval.  The sedative was promoted as a ‘wonder drug’ to treat a range of conditions including headaches, insomnia and morning sickness in pregnant women – adverts emphasised the drug’s safety using phrases such as ‘non-toxic’ and ‘no known toxicity’.


  • A letter is published in The Lancet from an Australian doctor, William McBride, for the first time publicly making the link between Thalidomide and birth defects.

  • 26 November: the drug is formally withdrawn by Chemie Grunenthal in Germany.
  • 2 December: Distillers, the UK distributor, follows suit.

1962    July Distaval removed from sale in Australia

1970    The trial against Chemie Grunenthal is brought to a premature end by the German government stating that the trial was ‘not in the public interest’.

1972    A Sunday Times-led campaign is launched in the UK to secure a substantial level of compensation for Thalidomide-affected children in the UK.

1973-78    46 Australian & New Zealand Thalidomide Survivors receive compensation payment from Distillers Company (Biochemicals) Ltd (‘Distillers’)

2010    Diageo PLC agree to ex-gratia payment for 45 Australian and New Zealand Thalidomide Survivors

2012    The Health Departments in all four nations of the UK agree to pay the Health Grant for a ten year period until 2022.

2014    Diageo pays a one off payment to a further 104 Australian and New Zealand claimants