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Thalidomide

  • In: Encyclopedia of Epidemiology
  • Edited by: Sarah Boslaugh
  • Subject:Public Health (general), Public Health Research Methods , Epidemiology & Biostatistics

Thalidomide is a pharmaceutical product that was synthesized in West Germany in 1953 and sold as an antinausea drug and sleep aid under a number of different brand names beginning in 1957. Because it was believed to be nontoxic and to have no side effects, it was widely prescribed to pregnant women for relief of morning sickness and insomnia. However, thalidomide proved to be anything but nontoxic; more than 10,000 women who took the drug during pregnancy gave birth to children with severe birth defects. The best-known sign of prenatal thalidomide exposure was phocomelia (misshapen limbs), but children exposed to thalidomide before birth (commonly referred to as ‘thalidomide babies’) suffered many other birth defects, including missing limbs, cleft palate, spinal cord defects, missing or abnormal ...

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