Thalidomide: In the Shadow of Death


In the early 1950s Chemie Grünenthal GmbH, based in Stolberg near Aachen, Germany, synthesized phthalimidoglutarimide (soon abbreviated to thalidomide).

In April 1954, after the company acquired a twenty-year patent for the drug, the company started clinical trials and soon afterwards began agressively marketing the drug. The drug showed great promise and soon became a blockbuster drug.[1][2][3]

In the early 1960s Thalidomide caused great fear among pregnant women when it became clear that an increasing number of infants were born with congenital malformations. Their mothers had taken the drug during the first few weeks of their pregnancy. In November 1961 the drug was withdrawn from commercial sale and distribution in Germany. The United Kingdom followed a month later. In 1962 the drug was withdrawn from almost any market around the world.

But that was only the beginning of the story.

For more information:
[1] Controversy: The involvement of Ciba AG in the development of Thalidomide. Onco’Zine – The International Oncology Network [Article]
[2] Thalidomide’s Secret Past: The Link with Nazi Germany. Onco’Zine – The International Oncology Network, December 4, 2013 [Article]
[3] Reversal of Fortune: How a Vilified Drug Became a Life-saving Agent in the “War” Against Cancer. Onco’Zine – The International Cancer Network [Article]


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