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Some Effects Of Thalidomide

Around 12,000 children were born with some kind of disability due to damage caused by thalidomide. Countless more miscarriages, which weren't recorded as caused by thalidomide, mean we can't assess correctly the true scale of the disaster. Estimates put the number of children affected at around 20,000. Even this doesn't take account of the families of the children affected.

One effect of thalidomide is targeting blood vessels. It is able to block growth and so tends to target parts of the body undergoing growth. Pregnant women taking the drug could therefore feel the benefit of the drug in combating morning sickness, but damage was being done to the rapidly growing foetus. It is possible that so many of the thalidomide babies experienced phocomelia because morning sickness can appear around the time of foetal limb growth. Image used without permission from 'The Horror And 

Hope of Thalidomide'

Many other forms of damage were caused to the children, including brain damage. Fortunately many children's disabilities were purely physical and they could learn to cope with disabilities and show normal intelligence.

Not all the effects of this drug were unpleasant, and a positive change has resulted from the disaster. As was mentioned before, at this time it was not usually necessary to submit research to government agencies before approval for sale was given. This was not the case in America.

Frances Kathleen Oldham Kelsey, Ph.D., M.D. (1914 - ) 

Image take from '' The case for Thalidomide was dealt with by reviewing medical officer Frances Kelsey, pictured left. This was her first case and was expected to be a simple approval, with the drug already widely available around the world. Kelsey was not convinced and withheld her approval while more research was conducted. After a while, reports of the drug's tetragenic effects began to emerge from Europe, and the drug was quickly withdrawn the world over. Thanks to her conviction, only 17 thalidomide babies were born in America, mostly due to thalidomide bought in other countries.

Now all countries require this information, and Drug tests have become infinitely more thorough. A lot of research has been put into optically active molecules. In most cases where only one enantiomer of a molecule is an effective drug, a stereo specific manufacturing method will be created.

It was never thought that thalidomide affected the DNA of patients. Nobody expected any effect to be observed in the children of the victims, but unfortunately new research is suggesting effects can be passed through generations.
Of 380 children born to thalidomide victims, 11 have suffered congenital limb defects, a rate 5 times higher than in the general population. Research has suggested it can also alter the DNA of eggs and sperm in rats.