Thalidomide - A Drug That Malfomed Thousands of Children


50 years ago a drug called Thalidomide caused the birth of thousands of disabled and malformed babies. They had shorter and twisted hands and no thumbs. Nobody knows how many babies were really affected by the drug but experts say that 10,000 babies were malformed in Germany alone.

Thalidomide was developed in Germany by the pharmaceutical company Grünenthal. In Germany it was sold by the name of Contergan between 1957 and 1961. At first Thalidomide was thought to be a drug that would calm you down. Doctors found out that it could cure headaches and worked especially well to fight morning sickness of pregnant women.

About 100,000 pregnant women around the world took the drug. Most of them lost their baby before it was born. Thousands of other babies survived but their limbs, eyes, ears and internal organs were severely malformed. After a series of lawsuits Thalidomide was withdrawn from the market.

Today about 6,000 Thalidomide children are still alive in nearly 50 countries. While most of the victims have received some kind of compensation from their governments, victims in other countries did not get anything. Many have no income at all and have never had a real job. Those who managed to get work have mostly retired by now. Campaigns have been going on around the world to help Thalidomide victims.

New evidence that has recently come up links Thalidomide to Nazi research. The Third Reich may have tested the drug in Nazi prison camps.

Although Thalidomide has been a much-discussed drug, the World Health Organization approved it again in 1985. Today it is sold in over 50 countries, mostly in the developing world. There it is used to treat leprosy, AIDS and bone cancer.




Related Topics




  • affect = influence
  • although = while
  • approve = allow
  • at first = at the beginning
  • calm = to make quiet, peaceful
  • campaign = movement
  • cancer = when cells in your body start to grow in a way that is not normal
  • cause = lead to
  • compensation = money you get because you have suffered or something has been damaged
  • cure = heal, make well
  • develop = create
  • developing world = the poor countries of Asia, Africa and South America
  • disabled = part of the body does not work the way it should
  • drug = medicine
  • evidence = facts that show that something is true
  • income = money you get when you work
  • internal = in the body
  • lawsuit = a problem that someone brings to court
  • leprosy = very serious infection in which skin and nerves are slowly destroyed
  • limb = arm or leg
  • link = connect
  • malformed = deformed, twisted, not in the right shape
  • manage = somehow get
  • pharmaceutical = related to drugs and medicine
  • pregnant = to expect a baby
  • prison camp = place where prisoners have to work
  • receive = get
  • research = study of a subject in order to find out more about it
  • retire = to stop working because you are either too old or your body does not allow it
  • series = many
  • severely = strongly, very much
  • survive = to live on after a dangerous situation
  • treat = cure
  • twisted = turned, not in the right shape
  • victim = here: people whose mothers took the drug
  • withdraw = remove , pull out
  • World Health Organization = international organization that helps countries improve people’s health by giving medicine or providing information about diseases etc..