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Australian PM apologises to victims of pregnancy drug linked defects

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Canberra: Australia’s Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has delivered a national apology to victims of a pregnancy drug that caused birth defects.

In a speech to Parliament on Wednesday, Albanese offered an “unreserved and overdue” apology to survivors of thalidomide, saying the system failed both mothers and children affected by the morning sickness drug.

Wednesday marked 62 years to the day since thalidomide was withdrawn from sale in Australia after it was linked to birth defects.

“We understand an apology does not balance years of inaction and inadequate support. We know the toll of thalidomide is still felt today,” Albanese said.

A 2019 Senate inquiry into thalidomide in Australia found that more urgent action in 1961, when the link between the drug and birth defects was discovered, could have prevented 20 percent of cases and recommended a national apology.

There are 146 registered survivors of thalidomide in Australia, most of whom were in parliament for the apology.

According to a study published by the University of Aberdeen in 2015, thalidomide caused over 10,000 cases of severe birth defects globally in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as increased miscarriage rates.

Albanese announced on Wednesday that the government would reopen a support program for survivors of the drug.

A national site of recognition for survivors of thalidomide will be unveiled in Canberra on Thursday.

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