THIS FILM IS PART OF THE JUSTICE FORUM SERIES AND WILL INCLUDE A POST-FILM DISCUSSION. FILMMAKER IN ATTENDANCE.
“The worst drug disaster in history would spread through 46 countries and produce up to 20,000 badly deformed babies.” So begins John Zaritsky’s new film that follows a group of people who were among the first to be affected by Thalidomide.
When the German pharmaceutical giant Grünenthal aggressively marketed a new wonder drug for expectant mothers suffering from morning sickness, sales boomed. Germany was also the first country to experience the first wave of Thalidomide birth defects. Even while German families were demanding answers and compensation, the drug was being actively marketed in the UK and Canada. The result was a similar surge in birth defects. The US, however, was largely spared, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Frances O’Kelsey, a Canadian doctor who almost single-handedly stopped the drug from being approved for market in the US.
Niko von Glasow (familiar to long-time DOXA fans from the film NoBody’s Perfect) is a charming, irascible presence, hilarious and profane, and deeply angry about the fact that Grünenthal has never made reparations to the victims of Thalidomide, nor even really apologized. The fact that a number of Nazi war criminals were employed by Grünenthal, including the chairman of the board who was convicted of mass murder, may help explain this. As the struggle for compensation from the pharmaceutical companies, who have made billions of dollars in profit from the drug continue, Thalidomide has staged something of a comeback and is now marketed as a treatment for multiple myeloma and leprosy. In Latin America, a new generation of Thalidomide babies are being born. -DW