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Thalidomide
Aim
To appreciate that poor science can be harmful to people.
Read the passages on thalidomide from the Internet and answer the questions that follow. 1Thalidomide is a drug which was sold during the 1950s[->0] and 1960s[->1] as a sleeping aid and given to pregnant women to combat morning sickness[->2] and other symptoms. It was made in West Germany[->3] in 1953[->4]. It was available in around 50 countries, although not in the United States[->5], under at least 40 different names. 5It was later (1960–61) found to cause severe physical abnormalities in the unborn child (foetus). These abnormalities were such things as no arms, no legs or very disfigured limbs. Around 15,000 foetuses were damaged by thalidomide, of whom about 12,000 in 46 countries were born with birth defects, with only 8,000 of them surviving past the first year of life. Most of these survivors are still alive, nearly all with disabilities caused by the drug. In 2003, a World Health 10Organisation newsletter quoted evidence that the disabilities and deformities in many thalidomide survivors may be passed on to the survivor’s own children through DNA, but many scientists say that there is no evidence for this. Those deformed by thalidomide are sometimes referred to (or self-described) as thalidomiders.

Thalidomide was banned for its intended use but it has been found to be effective for other 15uses. The American drug agency (the FDA) has approved thalidomide, under a restricted access system, for the treatment of leprosy[->6] (Hansen’s Disease). As of 2001, thalidomide was in clinical trials as a way of treating some cancers and some conditions in AIDS. Australian researchers began a trial of the controversial drug in April 2002, involving 224 cancer patients over a two-year period. The study found thalidomide sparked a doubling of the number of 20T cells[->7] in patients. This allowed their own immune system[->8] to attack and fight the cancer. The thalidomide tragedy...
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