A report by Fairfax Media claims that Thalidomide, the drug which caused thousands of babies to be born with congenital defects, was initially tested on pregnant Australian women.
The basis of the report are documents from Distillers Company, manufacturer of Thalidomide, which said the pharmaceutical firm used Aussie women for its first trial for the morning sickness drug, also known as Distaval, about 50 years ago..
The guinea pigs were pregnant women at the Crown Street Women's and Royal Prince Alfred hospitals in Sydney. Other trials were also held in Melbourne and Adelaide. The trials started May 1961.
A Distiller executive, in a 1962 letter, confirmed that the pregnant Aussie women were the first to try the drug, ahead of animal tests before Distaval was marketed.
As a result, babies with no limbs and other malformations were born beginning in 1961 in Australia who are the results of the botched trial. Distaval was sold over the counter and via prescription.
The availability of such documents came to light as part of a compensation claim by Lynette Rowe, a Thalidomide baby from Melbourne who filed a lawsuit with the Victoria Supreme Court through law firm Slater Gordon.
A Sydney obstetrician had warned of the possibility of malformed or dead babies due to the ingestion of Thalidomide by pregnant women, but Distillers withdrew the controversial drug from the market only in the later part of 1961 after causing lifetime damage to thousands of babies still struggling with the side effects even into their adult years.
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