Transforming Hyde into Jekyll; November 1995; Scientific American Magazine; by Nemecek; 2 Page(s)
For many people, the horrifying side effects associated with thalidomide should eliminate the drug from consideration as a treatment for anything. Yet scientists have returned to the controversial medication, seeking therapies for a variety of illnesses, including AIDS and cancer. Despite the drug's dark past, recent experiments indicate that a family of related compounds might safely and effectively treat diseases of the immune system.
In the 1950s thalidomide was given to thousands of pregnant women for morning sickness. Those who took the drug early in the first trimester gave birth to severely deformed babies--the compound somehow stunts the growth of arms and legs. In the 1960s, however, thalidomide given to leprosy patients eased their condition, and the drug was reexamined as a possible medication. Thalidomide is now used routinely to treat leprosy patients around the world. (In certain developing countries, where the drug is not carefully regulated, some patients, unaware of the side effects, still give birth to deformed infants.)