Friday, October 25, 2013

Thalidomide ...Good or Bad?

Thalidomide is a sedative-hypnotic and has many uses. Treating people who have myeloma is one of the many ways thalidomide is used. Myeloma is a type of cancer that begins in the bone marrow and affects a person's plasma cells. There are several different types of myeloma including multiple myeloma, plasmactoma, localized myeloma, extramedullary myeloma, and a few others. Thalidomide treats myeloma by strenthening the immune system to fight cancer cells.

Another use for thalidomide is treating and preventing skin symptoms of ENL (erythema nodosum leprosum) by blocking natural substances that cause swelling. Thalidomide is also used to treat complications caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) including ulcers formed in the mouth and HIV-associated diarrhea. It's also used to treat Crohn's disease which is a condition where the body attacks the lining of the digestive tract causing fever, weight loss, and pain. Side effects of using thalidomide for Crohn’s disease can be as severe as seizures, chills, slowed or racing heartbeat, and swelling in all part of the face. (

Although never approved for use in the United States, thalidomide was widely used in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Europe, Canada, and Japan to treat nausea and sleeplessness in pregnant women suffering from morning sickness. ( Not too long later, doctors realized that something had gone wrong. Many babies born to women who had taken thalidomide during pregnancy suffered from severe birth defects. Researchers later realized that the problem lay in the fact that thalidomide was being provided as a mixture of two different isomeric forms. (,_stereocenters,_enantiomers)


Therefore, even though thalidomide is a very helpful drug and has variety of uses, it also can be very detrimental to the human body and offspring.


  1. I think it is very interesting that a drug that had such a bad reputation in the 1960s now is being used for so many applications. I definitely think that it is the classic example of drug efficacy being dependent on stereochemistry.

  2. It's hard to tell if the positive consequences outweigh the negatives. I actually recently learned that when thalidomide was used for pregnant women's morning sickness it caused infants to be born with spina bifida. This is very dangerous due to the fact that the child's spinal cord does not fully form and remains open and might even protrude through the bones. So I'd definitely say it can be a pretty dangerous drug.