Andrea Petrie July 19, 2012
Moments after Lynette Rowe's father began publicly praising his daughter's determination as the lead plaintiff in a landmark Australian thalidomide class action, the Melbourne woman, pictured - who yesterday reached a multi-million settlement with the drug's distributor - was overcome with emotion.
But Ms Rowe's physical disabilities - she was born without arms and legs - prevented her from wiping away any tears she shed.
Instead, it was her mother Wendy who dabbed her eyes with a tissue, as her father proudly declared Lynette had proved ''You don't need arms and legs to change the world''.
Ms Rowe's congenital defects are the result of her mother taking the drug thalidomide after her doctor gave it to her to treat anxiety and morning sickness during her 1961 pregnancy.
Ms Rowe, now 50, took legal action against the drug's manufacturer, German pharmaceutical company Grunenthal, and thaliodmide's Australian distributor, Distillers, which was bought by British company Diageo in 1997.
Victoria's Supreme Court yesterday heard that a multi-million dollar compensation agreement had been reached between Ms Rowe and Diageo.
While the settlement remains confidential, Ms Rowe's lawyer Peter Gordon - who described thalidomide as ''the greatest pharmaceutical disaster in history'' - said it was more than adequate to care for her for the rest of her life.
But the fight against Grunenthal continues. The company maintains it acted responsibly in the development of drug, although it has admitted it greatly regrets ''the consequences of the thalidomide tragedy''. ''Grunenthal maintains that its actions were consistent with the state of scientific knowledge and the prevailing standards for pre-marketing and testing of the pharmaceutical industry in the 1950s,'' a statement released yesterday said.
''Grunenthal will continue to fully defend any litigation brought against it.''
Ms Rowe remains the lead plaintiff in a class action against Grunenthal, which alleges that between 1956 and 1961 Grunenthal received reports of birth deformities in infants whose mothers had taken thalidomide but ignored, suppressed and denigrated people who complained about it.
Lawyer Michael Magazanik, who is also involved in the class action, said the facts about thalidomide needed to be exposed.
''Grunenthal never tested the drug on pregnant animals or followed up its effect in pregnant women, yet assured doctors the drug was exceptionally safe,'' he said.
Mr Gordon said negotiations between Diageo and more than 130 other thalidomide victims in Australia and New Zealand would continue.
Diageo director Ian Wright told Fairfax the company was keen to resolve settlements with the remaining victims. with Nathan Partenza