Thalidomide is a sedative-hypnotic drug which was first released to the public in 1957. It was used mostly by pregnant women as a sleeping pill, because it also possessed the benefits of preventing morning sickness (Spiegel). In the 1950s, nobody had ever considered that thalidomide may possess DNA-altering properties (Hirsch). The long-term effects that thalidomide has on the body and fetuses prove to be catastrophic, however, it unquestionably has positive uses today. Thalidomide was developed by a German pharmaceutical company called Grunenthal in 1953. It was accidentally discovered during the development of a cheap antibiotic. When the company discovered Thalidomide’s soporific properties, it was soon marketed as a sedative, with little investigation as to its adverse effects (Thalidomide Victims). In addition to its sedative effects on the human body, it was also proven to prevent nausea, making it a popular drug for pregnant women, as it prevented morning sickness and helped them to fall asleep at night. What was not known about the drug, however, was that it is a teratogen, or a drug that harms fetal development (Spiegel). When tested in animals, the chemical seemed to be harmless; high doses did not damage the animals. As a result, the German scientists considered thalidomide to be “nontoxic”(Hirsch). However, what the scientists did not acknowledge was that thalidomide did not display tranquilizing effects on the animals. Had they taken this into consideration, they would have realized that not only does the drug not harm animals, but it has no effect on the animals at all—neither negative nor positive. Approximately 10,000 children were born with severe birth defects between the years of 1956 and 1962, as a result of women taking thalidomide during their pregnancies. Of the 10, 000 children with thalidomide birth defects known; only seventeen were born in the United States.
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