A Brief History of Thalidomide, Part 1

Thalidomide, brand name Kevadon. U.S. Food and Drug Adminsitration/public domain

Thalidomide has been described as the biggest man made medical disaster of all time. This first part covers what thalidomide is, the animal testing that lead its manufacturer to market it as safe, and its release into the market.

Tracy's Research:

  • "Frances Oldham Kelsey." Encyclopedia of World Biography Online, vol. 31, Gale, 2011. U.S. History in Context, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/K1631009590/GPS?u=mlin_n_melpub&sid=GPS&xid=e567094e. Accessed 24 July 2019.
  • "Thalidomide." When Technology Fails, edited by Neil Schlager, Gale, 2008. Science in Context, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CV2645800105/GPS?u=mlin_n_melpub&sid=GPS&xid=aa3afecd. Accessed 24 July 2019.
  • Badcock, James. “Spain's forgotten Thalidomide victims see glimmer of hope.” BBC. 12/23/2016. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-38386021
  • BBC. “Thalidomide scandal: How Australia's response has 'lagged behind.’” 4/3/2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-47703344
  • Bernstein, Anita. “Mass Torts as a False Cure for Toxic Exposure.” Columbia Law Review, Vol. 97, No. 7, A Special Issue Dedicated to Judge Jack B.Weinstein (Nov., 1997). https://www.jstor.org/stable/1123344
  • Botting, Regina M., editor. “The History of Thalidomide.” Animals and Medicine: The Contribution of Animal Experiments to the Control of Disease, by Jack H. Botting, 1st ed., Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK, 2015, pp. 183–198. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt15m7ng5.23.
  • Buck, Christopher. “The Shadow of the Thalidomide Tragedy.” New York Times Retro Report. 9/23/2013. Via YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41n3mDoVbvk
  • Canadian Thalidomide Survivors Support Program. https://tsspcanada.ca/
  • Chisholm, Christine. "The Curious Case of Thalidomide and the Absent Eugenic Clause in Canada’s Amended Abortion Law of 1969." Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, vol. 33 no. 2, 2016, pp. 493-516. Project MUSE, muse.jhu.edu/article/631895.
  • Connolly, Cate and Philip Oltermann. “German thalidomide survivors continue fight for compensation.” The Guardian. 2/23/2015. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/23/german-thalidomide-survivors-continue-fight-for-compensation
  • Daemmrich, Arthur. “Remind me again, what is thalidomide and how did it cause so much harm?.” The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/remind-me-again-what-is-thalidomide-and-how-did-it-cause-so-much-harm-46847
  • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “After 60 years, scientists uncover how thalidomide produced birth defects.” 8/1/2018. https://www.dana-farber.org/newsroom/news-releases/2018/after-60-years--scientists-uncover-how-thalidomide-produced-birth-defects/
  • Evans, Harold. “Documents raise fresh questions about thalidomide criminal trial.” Reuters. 11/13/2014. https://www.reuters.com/article/idUS27539325020141113
  • Evans, Harold. “Thalidomide: how men who blighted lives of thousands evaded justice.” The Guardian. 11/14/2014. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/14/-sp-thalidomide-pill-how-evaded-justice
  • Fintel, Bara, et al. “The Thalidomide Tragedy: Lessons for Drug Safety and Regulation.” Helix. 7/28/2009. https://helix.northwestern.edu/article/thalidomide-tragedy-lessons-drug-safety-and-regulation
  • Grunenthal Group. “Translation of the German speech by Harald F. Stock, PhD., Chief Executive Officer of the Grünenthal Group, on the occasion of the Thalidomide-Memorial inauguration upon invitation by the City of Stolberg on 31 August 2012 in Stolberg/Rhineland.” https://www.thalidomide.grunenthal.info/cms/cda/file/Speech+on+the+occasion+of+the+inauguration+of+Thalidomide-Memorial.pdf?fileID=224600937&cacheFix=1346426399000&__k=cce5ddd6b3d309e73d93fc0d1f0a225a
  • McFadden, Robert D. “Frances Oldham Kelsey, Who Saved U.S. Babies From Thalidomide, Dies at 101.” New York Times. 8/7/2015. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/08/science/frances-oldham-kelsey-fda-doctor-who-exposed-danger-of-thalidomide-dies-at-101.html
  • McGrath, Niki. “My thalidomide family: Every time I went home I was a stranger.” The Guardian. 8/1/2014. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/aug/01/thalidomide-louise-medus-a-stranger-when-i-went-home
  • McNeill, Leila. “The Woman Who Stood Between America and a Generation of ‘Thalidomide Babies.’” Smithsonian. 5/8/2017. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/woman-who-stood-between-america-and-epidemic-birth-defects-180963165/
  • National Library of Medicine. “Thalidomide.” 1/5/2018. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a699032.html
  • Newbronner E, Glendinning C, Atkin K, Wadman R (2019) The health and quality of life of Thalidomide survivors as they age – Evidence from a UK survey. PLoS ONE 14(1): e0210222. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0210222
  • Public Health Reports. “Thalidomide.” Vol. 77, No. 11 (Nov., 1962). Via JSTOR. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4591672
  • Reuters. “Germany increases pensions for thalidomide victims.” 4/26/2013. https://www.reuters.com/article/germany-thalidomide/germany-increases-pensions-for-thalidomide-victims-idUSL6N0C55SD20130426
  • Rincon, Reyes. “Supreme Court denies compensation to Spain’s ‘thalidomide babies.’” El Pais. September 23, 2015. https://elpais.com/elpais/2015/09/23/inenglish/1443018227_674922.html
  • Rodin, A.E. et al. “Association of Thalidomide (Kevadon) With Congenital Anomalies.” Canadian Medical Association Journal. 4/21/1962. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1849021/pdf/canmedaj00940-0025.pdf
  • Science Museum Brought to Life. “Thalidomide.” http://broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/themes/controversies/thalidomide
  • Spencer, Steven M. “The Untold Story of Thalidomide Babies.” Saturday Evening Post. 10/20/1962. Via EBSCO.
  • St. Petersburg Times. “Belgian Mother Is Freed in Thalidomide Child’s Slaying.” Via Google news. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=888&dat=19621111&id=0J4oAAAAIBAJ&sjid=J1IDAAAAIBAJ&pg=917,8837
  • Stone, Judy. “From the Holocaust to Thalidomide: A Nazi Legacy.” Scientific American. 11/8/2012. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/molecules-to-medicine/from-the-holocaust-to-thalidomide-a-nazi-legacy/
  • Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada. “Study on the Current Living Conditions of Canadian Thalidomide Survivors and Their Projections for Their Future.” 2013. https://thalidomide.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/2013-study-report.pdf
  • Timmermans, Stefan and Valerie Leiter. “The Redemption of Thalidomide: Standardizing the Risk of Birth Defects.” Social Studies of Science, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Feb., 2000). Via JSTOR. https://www.jstor.org/stable/285769
  • Van Robays, J. “Helen B. Taussig (1898-1986).” Facts, views & vision in ObGyn vol. 8,3 (2016): 183-187.
  • Vargesson, Neil. “Thalidomide‐induced teratogenesis: History and mechanisms.” Birth Defects Research. 2015 Jun; 105(2). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4737249/
  • Warren, Randolph. "Living In A World With Thalidomide: A Dose Of Reality." FDA Consumer, Mar. 2001, p. 40. Business Collection, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A73064357/GPS?u=mlin_n_melpub&sid=GPS&xid=8786b0d8. Accessed 24 July 2019.
  • Williams, Roger, and Jonathan Stone. "The Nazis at the Heart of the Worst Drug Scandal of All Time." Newsweek, 17 Sept. 2012, p. 36. Science in Context, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A302270431/GPS?u=mlin_n_melpub&sid=GPS&xid=91aa7112. Accessed 24 July 2019.

Topics in this Podcast: thalidomide, 20th century, public health, Helen Taussig, Francis Oldham Kelsey, disability, medical history