In the 1960s, a pharmaceutical company started selling a drug that could allegedly treat colds, flu, nausea, and morning sickness in pregnant women. This drug, however, had adverse effects on thousands of children.
The Harmful Drug That Disfigured Children
Newsbreak reported that the harmful drug that disfigured children is called Thalidomide. Grünenthal, one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies worldwide, which originated in Germany, created Thalidomide intended to be used as a sedative or tranquilizer for humans. They tested the drug on animals and deemed it was a hundred percent harmless to people.
When Thalidomide was distributed to pharmacies in 1956, Grünenthal said that pharmacies could sell it over the counter without needing a prescription from a doctor and that it could treat the conditions mentioned above. In 1957, 14 pharmaceutical companies bought the license from Grünenthal so they could sell it to 46 other countries.
Thalidomide Advertised As Safe For Pregnant Women
Thalidomide was sold in the United Kingdom under the trade name Distaval. Newsbreak shared that Distaval was described as “can be given with complete safety to pregnant women and nursing mothers without adverse effect on mother or child.” It was also advertised as not as strong as other drugs that will cure colds, flu, headaches for pregnant mothers, which could have potential effects on the child.
However, in the United States, Thalidomide was rejected by the Food and Drug Administration, so it did not get sold there.
Thalidomide’s Effects On Children
In the 1960s, there were already a small number of cases of children being born without their arms or legs. Experts in the medical field did not look at Thalidomide as a potential cause. The year after, more children were born with malformations, so doctors started to look into what the mothers consumed when they were pregnant. They found out that these women took Thalidomide during pregnancy, but the conclusion took five years to be finalized.
Newsbreak added that the full effects of Thalidomide included bilateral limb atrophy, phocomelia, bilateral limb absence, missing fingers or toes, palmature of the fingers or toes, extra fingers or toes, total or partial hearing loss, partial or total vision loss, paralysis, malformation of the digestive tube, malformation of the duodenum, malformation or absence of the anus, vital organs injury, and death.
Newsbreak noted that based on a paper written by Takumi et al. called “Identification of Primary Target of Thalidomide Teratogenicity,” the drug exerts teratogenic effects by binding to cereblon. Later, it will inhibit associated enzymatic activity, which is necessary for limb development. Over 10,000 children were affected by Thalidomide.
Grünenthal formally withdrew the drug in November 1961, but the drug was still produced and sold in other countries for more years.