No other drug in modern medicine rivals the dramatic revitalization of thalidomide. Originally marketed as a sedative, thalidomide gained immense popularity worldwide among pregnant women because of its effective anti-emetic properties in morning sickness. Despite its tragic past thalidomide emerged several decades later as a novel and highly effective agent in the treatment of various inflammatory and malignant diseases.
Thalidomide, sold under the brand names Contergan and Thalomid among others, is a medication used to treat a number of cancers (including multiple myeloma), graft-versus-host disease, and a number of skin conditions including complications of leprosy. While it has been used in a number of HIV associated conditions, such use is associated with increased levels of the virus. It is administered orally.
The drug Thalidomide was first manufactured in Germany, primarily for the purpose of treating respiratory infections. Today, many people know about this drug because of its adverse effects on pregnancy. Over 10,000 children born during the 1960s suffered serious impairments, such as missing limbs and cleft palates, as a result of this drug.
Unlike the other trials on the list, the eerie part of the thalidomide clinical trial was that everything went horribly right. During the patenting and approval phase, researchers tested the drug on animals but neglected to observe the effects on their offspring. Since it was impossible to die from an overdose of the medicine, it was deemed safe, and it hit the shelves in 1956.
It was not until 1961 that Australian doctor William McBride discovered the link between Thalidomide and the deformities. Until then, every clinical trial came to the conclusion that thalidomide was a safe over-the-counter medicine although10,000 people paid the price.
Over 10,000 babies born in the 1960s suffered severe impairments, missing limbs, flipper-like arms, cleft palates, all because of this drug. It’s scary because everything went terrifyingly right during the approval phase of the drug. One mistake of neglecting to observe the side-effects on their offspring, created a domino-effect of deformities. The drug was banned shortly after, in 1962.
However, It was approved for medical use in the United States in 1998. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines. It is available as a generic medication.