Thalidomide : the drug that came back.

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About this work


Distaval, better known as thalidomide, was introduced to the market in 1958 as a sleeping pill and tranquiliser and considered safe for use by pregnant women for relief of morning sickness. It was banned in 1962, by which time over 12,000 babies in 48 countries had been malformed or killed by it. Forty per cent of infant casualties died soon after birth, but there are still 8,000 thalidomide survivors worldwide. The film reveals that thalidomide is again in use in Brazil and in Britain, with inadequate safeguards. In Brazil it is used to counteract the side-effects of leprosy medication, with the approval of the Brazilian Ministry of Health and the WHO. The Ministry claims that it is prescribed only to men and that there are no new thalidomide casualties but "First Tuesday"visited leper colonies and located new victims of the drug. It is being prescribed for women regardless of whether they are of childbearing age or are likely to become pregnant and can even be bought over the counter in bottles bearing instructions only in English. In Britain thalidomide was brought back into use ten years ago by a consultant at Nottingham University Hospital as an unlicensed drug for the treatment of Becher's syndrome. But the tablets precribed by the hospital were not labelled "thalidomide" and there was no warning on the bottle. The Department of Health's guidance over the use of thalidomide is restricted to the statement that it may be prescribed by experienced doctors for a small number of patients.


[Place of publication not identified] : Yorkshire Television for Channel 4 TV, 1993.

Physical description

1 videocassette (VHS) (60 min.) : sound, color, PAL.

Copyright note

Yorkshire Tyne Tees Television


Supporting paperwork available in the department.

Creator/production credits

Presenter, Olivia O'Leary



Where to find it

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