FIRST MANUFACTURED by Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals in 1956, Bendectin was a prescription drug used to alleviate nausea and morning sickness associated with pregnancy. Over 33 million pregnant women worldwide were taking the drug when Betty Mekdeci, a woman determined to find the cause of her son's severe birth defects, linked the defects to the Bendectin she took during pregnancy. The story broke in the National Enquirer in October 1979, implicating Bendectin as the cause of birth defects among thousands of newborns in the United States.

Women taking the drug panicked; some had unnecessary abortions, and thousands more sued Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals. At one point, the company was faced with more than 1,800 lawsuits from women whose babies were born with defects. The cost of litigation exceeded ...

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