Thalidomide : a second chance.

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About this work


Documentary looking at the history of the drug thalidomide. The first part of the programme examines the discovery of the drug in Germany in 1954 and subsequent popularity as 'Distaval', prescribed as a tranquiliser for anxiety and morning sickness during pregnancy. It turned out to be one of the biggest disasters in medical history after women in the early stages of pregnancy, even if they took just one dose of the drug, gave birth to children with shortened arms and legs. The drug was banned in 1962 but three years later was used to successfully treat the skin lesions of ENL (erythema nodosum leprosum), a side effect of leprosy. It has also been used to treat painful ulcers in Behcet's Disease sufferers. It was found that multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, was brought under control through the use of thalidomide, but there are side effects that can lead to neuropathy. An alternative drug, Revimin, has been developed which appears to hold no risk of birth defects or side effects. Thalidomide caused a revolution in the way scientists think about treatment of cancer and the programme ends by suggesting that because of this, the drug may be 'making amends' for the horrors it was previously responsible for.


United Kingdom : BBC 2, 2004.

Physical description

Videocassettes (VHS) (40 min.) : sound, color, PAL.


Copyright note

BBC Television.


Broadcast 12 Feb 2004.

Creator/production credits

Written and Produced by Jill Marshall; Series Editor Matthew Barrett.



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