Canada Health Alliance

The Tragedy of Thalidomide in Canada

Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada

Everything began with the first time thalidomide was put on the market, in 1956 in Western Germany by the pharmaceutical Chëmie Grünenthal. It was then marketed in several other countries, including the United Kingdom (1958), Japan (1958) and Norway (1959). The drug would have entered the Canadian market in late 1959, first as samples before being officially authorized in 1961. The American pharmaceutical Richardson-Merrell was the first to distribute thalidomide within Canada, under the name Kevadon.

The laxity of Canadian laws at the time first allowed Richardson-Merrell, without any authorization or verification from the Canadian authorities, to distribute thalidomide samples to physicians known as ‘clinical investigators’.

… In spite of its obligation to ensure public safety when authorizing new drugs, the Government of Canada at that time authorized the marketing of thalidomide in our country based on the same informations that the American authorities did not find sufficient. 

… To this day, in Canada, there are more than a hundred persons living with malformations that are attributable to thalidomide. 

… Although it has shown its concern for the victims of thalidomide, amended the legislation for the control of new drugs, and provided financial assistance to the thalidomide survivors, to this day, the Government of Canada has never formally acknowledged  its share of responsibility for this tragedy.

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