I Think I Am A Victim Of The Drug Thalidomide: How Do I Prove It?

I Think I Am A Victim Of The Drug Thalidomide: How Do I Prove It?

On a regular basis, the Association receives inquiries from people all over the world, who believe they may be thalidomide victims, but who have never established proof for drug company settlements. Most of the inquiries turn out to be a false understanding of thalidomide related disabilities, or are from people born before thalidomide was even available. Many people have never had a diagnosis from a doctor, but have been told their alleged diagnosis from parents, other relatives or well-intentioned friends.

Often these individuals are seeking information on what the cause of their disabilities was. What follows is a guide we use to advise people. There is no blood test that can identify who is or isn't a victim of thalidomide, but with all limb malformation disabilities, to determine a cause, you would begin at your own doctor, research the circumstances surrounding birth, and go to a geneticist to eliminate "other causes". The most important aspect to any such search for proof of thalidomide being the culprit, is the paperwork. An original prescription, or a doctor's note on file of having prescribed the drug, are the key necessities in establishing a claim.

Extracted from "Am I Really a Thalidomide Victim?" (Originally published in Action #6)

Prepared by Randolph Warren, CEO
February 16, 1999

A number of people have written with questions about proving their status as thalidomide victims. Here are a few notes that might help you.

These are just common-sense suggestions. Sometimes it helps just to get a general idea of how to look for information.

  • In Canada, thalidomide was available under the brand names Kevadon and Talimol.
  • July 1959 was probably the earliest that thalidomide was available in Canada. The American manufacturer was granted permission to distribute it in sample form in late June 1959.
  • Thalidomide was not available by prescription in Canada until after April 1, 1961.
  • Thalidomide was "recalled" by the Canadian government on March 2, 1962, but was available as late as May/June in some pharmacies.
  • Look for written evidence that your mother ingested the drug.
  • Your mother’s attending physician during her pregnancy might have records documenting medications she was prescribed or samples she was given.
  • The pharmacy that filled her prescription might have some records available. The pharmacist of the time might also be able to help.
  • Make a list of all the medical professionals involved in the care of your mother during her pregnancy, with particular emphasis on the early stages of her pregnancy.
  • You might want to request old medical records. Talk to your family doctor: he or she might be able to make enquiries for you. Or write letters to the source requesting specific medical records. Sometimes it helps to follow up a letter with a phone call to the source.

The Canadian Medical Association or your provincial College of Physicians might be able to put you in touch with physicians who have retired or who took over someone else’s practice. Sometimes old records still exist. Talk to your local librarian for help.

Remember that the most credible records or letters you get will show the affiliation or profession of the writer, and will include the date of the document and an official signature.

Look for pictures of your disabilities, if they are visible. Baby pictures are useful to show your condition at birth, especially if you have ever undergone surgery on the affected area.

There is no test (blood or otherwise) that proves thalidomide is responsible for disabilities.

IF YOU DO NOT HAVE DOCUMENTATION (pre-natal or before birth), you must begin to build a case by eliminating other potential causes. The science of genetics has progressed a long way in the past thirty to forty years, and many conditions previously wrongly diagnosed as thalidomide related, can now be identified by geneticists. Have your physician refer you to a geneticist to eliminate other causes.

Note: A doctor’s diagnosis, even at birth, without documentation of ingestion of the drug, is not acceptable proof. There have been many cases of misdiagnosis’ reported.

In the USA, thalidomide was never licensed but was available from late June 1959 to late 1961 under the trade name Kevadon in sample form.

The same points described before in Canada would apply to American persons trying to prove or wanting to know if thalidomide caused their birth defects.

Remember that some birth defects just occur, without rhyme or reason. Sometimes people find out from their research that they are not thalidomide victims. Sometimes there are no answers other than the rules of nature.

Thalidomide - Impact on the Practitioner