|[December 02, 2013]
Hagens Berman: Statement of Steve W. Berman, lead attorney in US-Based Thalidomide Cases, in Response to Recent $81 million settlement for Australian victims
SEATTLE --(Business Wire)--
Hagens Berman attorneys representing plaintiffs in the US seeking
compensation from the manufacturer and distributors of the birth
defect-causing drug Thalidomide today lauded a $81 million settlement
announced for Australian victims, but said progress for a similar
settlement against GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) and Sanofi-Aventis
(NYSE:SNY) does not appear likely without moving to trial.
Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, represents 49 victims
who suffered birth defects after their mothers took the drug. Newly
unearthed documents provide additional evidence that major
pharmaceutical companies including GSK and Sanofi-Aventis distributed
the dangerous birth defect-causing drug Thalidomide in the United States
much more widely than previously believed.
"It is gratifying to see that the drug's distributor in Australia
stepped up and reached an equitable settlement for its role in the
devastation Thalidomide caused in Australia," Berman said. "In contrast,
the primary marketers in the US, the defendants have been assertively
belligerent in their approach to the US case, attempting every legal
tactic available to deny a trial."
Diageo, the Australian and New Zealand distributor of Thalidomide,
announced $81 million settlement on Dec. 2, 2013.
According to Berman, GSK has put forth a long litany of claims in its
defense with one of the more galling questioning the source of the drug
that led to the birth defects in the US.
"GSK is disputing that it was the source of Thalidomide for women who
took the drug prior to 1958, in spite of the fact that GSK was the only
distributor in the US at that time," Berman said. "While we expect the
company to construct a vigorous defense, we think that GSK should not be
foisting such transparently spurious claims simply to slow the pace of
In addition to GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis, many of the 49 cases
filed by Hagens Berman also name Grunenthal GMBH as defendants.
The suits claim that the companies or their predecessors participated in
so-called clinical trials of Thalidomide in the United States during the
late 1950s and early 1960s. Invented by one of the defendants in the
cases, Grunenthal, Thalidomide caused thousands of infant deaths and
extreme, disfiguring birth defects throughout Europe andelsewhere when
used by women during pregnancy.
The latest lawsuit includes a number of new sources to substantiate the
allegations. Investigators have unearthed and translated the indictment
of Grunenthal executives in a German court, as well as new FDA documents
that speak to the scale of the drug's distribution in the United States.
According to the suits, the companies downplayed and covered up their
involvement in distributing the drug, creating a false historical
narrative that there were very few, if any, Thalidomide victims in the
"Through the discovery of newly unearthed documents, we now understand
that as early as 1956, years before the public learned about the dangers
of Thalidomide, Smith, Kline and French, now GlaxoSmithKline, conducted
human tests with Thalidomide," said Steve Berman, the attorney
representing the plaintiffs. "The documents show that at least one and
possibly two babies were born with serious birth defects to
participants, but SKF failed to take action to protect the public in a
For more than fifty years, SKF never fully disclosed to the public that
at least one of the mothers who had been given the drug gave birth to a
severely deformed baby.
The suit also claims that both GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis - then
Merrell Richardson (News - Alert) - widely distributed Thalidomide as part of a
marketing initiative thinly disguised as a clinical trial, resulting in
the exposure of thousands of people to the drug within the United
States, including pregnant women. However, the lawsuit alleges the
company did not conduct testing on pregnant animals to verify the drug
was safe for pregnant women.
"Thalidomide was never approved by the Food and Drug Administration in
the United States," Berman said. "Yet, we have unearthed evidence that
suggests Merrell distributed more than 2.5 million doses to doctors who
gave Thalidomide to more than 20,000 people. The FDA later estimated
that 3,760 women of child-bearing age took the drug, of which at least
207 were pregnant."
New medical evidence also plays a role in the lawsuits. According to the
complaints, researchers had previously concluded that Thalidomide causes
bilateral birth defects, such as two missing or shortened arms or
hearing loss in both ears. Babies born with unilateral defects, such as
one deformed limb, or hearing loss in only one ear were assumed to not
be Thalidomide victims, the complaint alleges.
However, new research involving Thalidomide as part of a treatment
regimen in cancer patients shows that many of those assumptions are not
correct and that the drug can cause unilateral injuries, attorneys
allege. Many Thalidomide victims may have never been properly identified
or diagnosed, according to the suits.
The firm is continuing to research the case. Those with additional
information or who believe they might have suffered as a result of in
utero Thalidomide exposure are encouraged to call Hagens Berman at (206)
623-7292 or email the firm at Thalidomide@hbsslaw.com.
More information about these lawsuits is available at www.hbsslaw.com/Thalidomide.
About Hagens Berman
Seattle-based Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP represents workers,
whistleblowers, investors and consumers in complex litigation. The firm
has offices in Boston, Chicago, Colorado Springs, Los Angeles,
Minneapolis, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
Founded in 1993, HBSS continues to successfully fight for investor
rights in large, complex litigation. More about the law firm and its
successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com.
Visit the firm's class-action law blog at www.classactionlawtoday.com.
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