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$3.5m Compensation For Thalidomide Victims

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Fuseworks Media
$3.5m Compensation For Thalidomide Victims

New Zealanders who suffered birth defects as a result of the drug thalidomide being prescribed to their pregnant mothers will receive a share of $3.5 million compensation from British-based company Diageo.

Thalidomide, originally used for morning sickness in pregnant women, caused 12,000 birth defects worldwide in the 1950s and 60s.

There were about 10 survivors in New Zealand.

Diageo, which took over the British company that originally sold the drug, today announced compensation for victims of the drug here and in Australia, 3News reported.

In a statement, the company said: "We very much regret the thalidomide tragedy which happened nearly 50 years ago. The suffering and hurt of those affected has troubled us all."

A total of $A50 million ($NZ61.74 million) compensation for 45 Australians and New Zealanders was negotiated by an Australian war hero and a top lawyer and signed off in Sydney yesterday, Melbourne's The Age newspaper reported.

The compensation was a goodwill gesture from Diageo after settlements in the 1970s ended the company's legal obligations to victims.

Auckland thalidomide victim Barry de Geest told 3News he was "really excited" about the compensation, which would see him receive $78,000 over 20 years.

Mr de Geest was born with no arms and deformed legs, and struggled with the expenses of his disability.

His compensation payment would go towards laser eye surgery because it was "a real hassle" to wear glasses and not be able to take them on and off.

He said he also wanted to give his mother a holiday.

The British government last year pledged 20 million pounds (about $NZ42 million) compensation for victims there.

Sales of the drug were stopped worldwide by 1962, but its use had been renewed since the 1990s for treatment of leprosy, cancer and Aids.

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