Usually, we consider medicines to be the heroes-little pills that can clear up our sinuses, rid us of infections, and soothe our pounding headaches. However, some drugs have terrible side effects. This is why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the medication that is on the market. Sometimes, though, we cannot predict the horrific effect of medicine that we think will help us, such as Thalidomide.
Chemie Grunenthal, a West German pharmaceutical company, introduced thalidomide in 1956 as some sort of a miracle drug that started as a sedative, and grew from there. It was popular as a sleep aid called Contergan and was used for insomniacs. Thalidomide usage spread to pregnant women to treat their nausea from morning sickness. Sadly, that is where thalidomide turned extremely harmful.
When the researchers who were developing this drug did all of their testing, they did not think to see how it affected pregnant women. They saw that it worked well on men and women, and so they assumed that it would be fine for pregnant women as well. However, it was in pregnant women that thalidomide’s teratogenic effects became apparent.
A teratogen is a drug that disrupts the growth and development of a fetus or embryo, or even terminate the pregnancy completely. Kind of like a carcinogen, a teratogen alters the DNA of a fertilized egg, which can result in severe birth defects. Other examples of teratogens include radiation and some drugs and chemicals, as well as infections in the pregnant mother.
Thalidomide exhibited itself very distinctively. Mothers who took this drug while pregnant gave birth to babies who most usually had shortened arms or legs that had become flipper-like in appearance. In some cases, the limbs were completely absent. Other birth defects included external ear deformities; ingrown genitalia; hearing and/or vision impairment loss of lung; and deformed heart, digestive tract, or kidneys. Sometimes, the baby was stillborn.
Because of these harmful effects, thalidomide was taken off the market in 1961. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 babies were said to have the drug-related abnormalities. Luckily, the United States’ FDA never approved this drug, so the effects were mostly seen in Europe.
In later tests, thalidomide has proved beneficial in treating immune and autoimmune disorders. It is now being used to treat some skin lesion diseases as well as Crohn’s disease, among others. Women who are taking these teratogenic drugs must submit to pregnancy tests throughout the course of the medicine. Although still cautious, researchers are optimistic about the good things that thalidomide can provide.
There are a number of medications that can affect your baby. If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, check with your doctor about the drugs that you should avoid. Should your doctor prescribe you a teratogenic drug or fail to inform you of a drug’s toxicity, this may result in birth defects in your baby. For more information on birth injuries and dangerous products, check out Austin personal injury lawyer Vic Feazell today.