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Thalidomide Effects

Thalidomide Effects

What is thalidomide (Thalomid)?

Thalidomide affects the immune system. It promotes immune responses to help slow tumor growth.

Thalidomide is used together with dexamethasone to treat multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer). Thalidomide is also used to treat and prevent moderate to severe skin lesions caused by leprosy.

Thalidomide is available only from a certified pharmacy under a special program called Thalomid REMS. You must be registered in the program and agree to use birth control as required. You will be limited to a 28-day supply of thalidomide each time your prescription is refilled.

How Thalidomide Is Given:

As a capsule by mouth.  Each capsule is 50 mg.  Capsules should be stored in a cool, dry place and protected from light.

It is usually taken at night, about an hour before you go to bed, to decrease sleepiness during the daytime.

In order to receive this drug, there are strict guidelines that you must follow. You will be required to participate in a special program called the "System for Thalidomide Education and Prescribing Safety" (STEPS). You will be asked to fill out a questionnaire before you receive the medication, and every month, while you are taking the drug. Only certain pharmacists and doctors may prescribe or dispense this medication.

The amount of thalidomide you will receive depends on many factors, including your general health or other health problems, and the type of cancer or condition being treated.  Your doctor will determine your dosage and schedule.

side effects

  • headache, dizziness, drowsiness, weakness, tired feeling;
  • anxiety, agitation, confusion;
  • tremors, muscle weakness;
  • nausea, loss of appetite, constipation;
  • weight gain or loss;
  • swelling, trouble breathing;

Some Effects Of Thalidomide

Around 12,000 children were born with some kind of disability due to damage caused by thalidomide. Countless more miscarriages, which weren't recorded as caused by thalidomide, mean we can't assess correctly the true scale of the disaster. Estimates put the number of children affected at around 20,000. Even this doesn't take account of the families of the children affected.

One effect of thalidomide is targeting blood vessels. It is able to block growth and so tends to target parts of the body undergoing growth. Pregnant women taking the drug could therefore feel the benefit of the drug in combating morning sickness, but damage was being done to the rapidly growing foetus. It is possible that so many of the thalidomide babies experienced phocomelia because morning sickness can appear around the time of foetal limb growth. Image used without permission from 'The Horror And

Many other forms of damage were caused to the children, including brain damage. Fortunately many children's disabilities were purely physical and they could learn to cope with disabilities and show normal intelligence.

Areas of thalidomide research

Researchers continue to investigate thalidomide for use in treating a variety of diseases and conditions. Though more study is needed, thalidomide has shown promise in treating:

Inflammatory diseases that affect the skin, such as cutaneous lupus and Behcet's disease

HIV-related mouth and throat ulcers, as well as HIV-related weight loss and body wasting

Cancer, including blood and bone marrow cancers, such as leukemia and myelofibrosis, as well as cancers found elsewhere in the body.

Creating a safer thalidomide

Drugs that work like thalidomide but have fewer side effects may one day be available. Researchers are working on drugs chemically similar to thalidomide (thalidomide analogs).

Lenalidomide (Revlimid), which is approved for treating myelodysplastic syndrome (with 5q- syndrome), multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma

Pomalidomide (Pomalyst), which is approved for treating multiple myeloma

Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about thalidomide. Understanding thalidomide's history, its risks and its potential benefits can help you decide if it's right for you.

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