Thalidomide

A woman expecting a baby can enjoy her condition for nine months of pregnancy. However, many women experience morning sickness in the first phase of an altered state. Even though it is a completely natural phenomenon, can be uncomfortable and sometimes very unpleasant. Years ago, a doctor in the case of this ailment could at most comfort. It is a little help for women who want to lead a normal life and work.

Then thalidomide appeared. It introduced him in 1958 year to the market in Germany, in the hustle and bustle of aggressive promotion, company Chemie Griinenthal. The agent was supposed to be so safe, that it was sold over the counter under the brand name Contergan. Within a few years, it found its way onto pharmacy shelves in over 40 countries. The liquid form of thalidomide quickly gained recognition as a "friend” nanny, because it was perfect for calming and lulling young children. Chemie Griinenthal was absolutely convinced, thalidomide is safe. One of the ads uses an image of a small child, reaching up on a shelf for a bottle of this medicine. The signature said: “Completely harmless, even for babies”.

Some side effects have been observed – few patients complained, that they have dizziness and digestive disorders after thalidomide. Such reports, however, accompany almost every drug and mean nothing in practice. In Great Britain, thalidomide was marketed under the name Distaval. It was recorded as an antidepressant drug, it has sometimes been used to prevent morning sickness in pregnant women. It was much safer than other antidepressants, like barbiturates. Accidental overdose was not fatal – an adult person could swallow even 350 g thalidomide without fear of life. Thalidomide gave the impression of an excellent sedative and put an end to the problems of morning sickness.

Doctors and their patients were unaware of the frightening side effects caused by the drug, which turned out to be a teratogenic substance. It is the professional name for the distortion factor in the developing fetus. Woman, who was prescribed thalidomide during the first weeks of pregnancy, she risked having a child without limbs. The picture of a typical thalidomide victim is a child without an arm, which a tiny hand grows straight from the shoulder.

The first signals, that something is wrong, appeared in 1961 year. William McBride, a young doctor from Crown Street Women's Hospital in Sydney, Australia, first he noticed, that an extraordinary number of babies are born with tiny hands and feet. This distortion was known and before, but it was very rare. During interviews with mothers of crippled children, McBride discovered, that they all used thalidomide during their pregnancy. The young doctor wrote a report for the Lancet”, emphasizing the discovered dependence. His suspicion was well founded, further studies showed unequivocally, that the perpetrator of the misfortunes was thalidomide. As a result, the drug was withdrawn from use in most countries.

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