The Case for Thalidomide

A drug that causes massive birth defects can save lives as well

NEARLY 30 YEARS AFTER THE DRUG THALIDOMIDE WAS yanked from the consumer market, the mere mention of it can still evoke shudders of horror from those who came to know of its side effects. Marketed as a tranquilizer, thalidomide turned out to be one of the most potent causes of birth defects ever found. Babies born to women who took it during early pregnancy were born with terrible deformities, including missing or seriously misshapen limbs.

But now the long-feared drug has also become a source of hope. Doctors have known for years that thalidomide is among the most effective treatments for...

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