Thalidomide (Softenon) victims seek recompense

Victims of the 1960's Thalidomide scandal are taking the Belgian state to court in search of compensation. Thalidolmide that was marketed in Belgium as Softenon was prescribed to pregnant women but led to deformities in their children.

The court case started before the Brussels criminal court on Tuesday. The victims have taken the Belgian state to court because it took several years before the drug was banned here.

The drug was prescribed against morning sickness. Many children of mothers who used Softenon were born deformed. A large number died during their first year.

Some action was taken as early as 1962 but it took until 1969 before Softenon was banned entirely.

An association grouping Thalidomide victims has taken the Belgian state to court alleging that unlike abroad no proper settlement was ever reached with the victims.

Softenon victim Mieke Suyskens from Kalmthout (Antwerp) hopes that she and her like will be recognised as victims and that the Belgian state makes an apology. She is also looking for compensation for parents and children: "Our parents made a great effort to raise us. A symbolic euro will not be enough."

The drug is still in use today under than brand name Celgene. It is used against skin disease.

Ann Eeckhout of the Federal Drug Agency: "The European Medicines Agency has approved its use, but under no conditions may it be prescribed to pregnant women."