Anthony Albanese, Prime Minister of Australia

Survivors of the morning sickness drug thalidomide were in the public gallery of Australia’s parliament in Canberra, to hear Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s make a national apology to them on the 62nd anniversary of the drug being withdrawn from sale in the country.

Thalidomide was available in 46 countries and prescribed for morning sickness but was found to cause birth defects, stillbirths and miscarriages.

“Today, on behalf of the people of Australia, our government and this Parliament offers a full unreserved − and overdue − apology to all thalidomide survivors, their families, loved ones, and carers,” Albanese said.

“This apology takes in one of the darkest chapters in Australia’s medical history. There was no system for properly evaluating the safety of medicines, and the terrible cruelty of thalidomide, is that far from being safe, just one dose was enough to cause devastating harm,” added Albanese.

The apology was recommended in 2019 following an inquiry by the country’s Senate into the support being made available to the aging cohort of survivors of thalidomide .

Australia established a support program in 2020 that is providing lifelong assistance to 148 survivors, and Albanese said his government was reopening the program to survivors who had yet to register.

A memorial in Canberra in recognition of thalidomide survivors and their families is set to be opened fulfilling a further recommendation of the Senate report.