Commentary on Abstract #2391
February 02, 2006
Thalidomide (Thalomid) is a derivative of glutamic acid that was introduced as a nonbarbiturate hypnotic in 1956 by a West German company. It was used widely as an over-the-counter sedative and antiemetic drug in countries other than the United States. Because of its presumed safety and antinausea effect, it was given to pregnant women suffering from morning sickness and to influenza patients experiencing nausea. Subsequently, over 12,000 malformed babies were born as the result of fetal exposure to thalidomide early in pregnancy. When its teratogenic effects-notably flipperlike limbs-became known, thalidomide was withdrawn from the market in 1961. In the mid-1960s, after it was given as a sedative to a small number of leprosy patients in Israel afflicted with erythema nodosum leprosum, it was noted that the patients’ symptoms rapidly and markedly improved.