Thalidomide Thalidomide was a drug first synthesized in 1953 and was placed on the market as a therapy for insomnia and antiemetic agent for pregnant women in 1957. It gained widespread popularity as it lacked the typical addictive properties of barbiturates and produced a natural, calm sleep.
By 1960, thalidomide had become a popular sedative and morning sickness drug during the first trimester of pregnancy. In 1961, a German physician and geneticist, Widukind Lenz, had examined over 50 malformed babies whose mothers had taken thalidomide during their pregnancies. Lenz asserted that Thalidomide was severely teratogenic, which means “of or relating to substances or agents that can interfere with normal embryonic development.” So, thalidomide was interfering with the early development of the children whose mothers took the drug. Thalidomide is a derivative of glutamic acid. It is present as the optical, active S and R isomers.
The S isomer has been associated with its teratogenicity, “relating to substances or agents that can interfere with normal embryonic development”, while the R isomer is primarily responsible for its sedative properties, “promoting calm or inducing sleep”. Thalidomide was actually first studied as an anticancer agent as early as 1962 when it was used by Woodyatt to treat a mixed mesodermal tumor of the uterus. It has shown some limited therapeutic activity in a few kinds of cancer, but has been proved effective in treating AIDS. It also halts weight loss and improves sleep in most cancer patients. Thalidomide has been used in the treatment of haematological malignancies, such as Multiple myeloma (MM.
) It has also been combined with other active agents in the management of relapsed MM, while the absence of myelosuppression and other important adverse effects suggest that it should be combined with chemotherapy. Overall, Thalidomide has been used in cancer and cancer-related conditions, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, dermatologic diseases and other disorders. It has shown that it can be useful in medicine today, even though it wasn’t designed to help in so many different illnesses. And even though Thalidomide devastated so many people and children, it is helping many people today. What happened in the 1960’s was a tragedy, but Thalidomide has a place in medicine today and it is helping many people. “Continued study of thalidomide is warranted, especially with laboratory correlates to further elucidate its mechanisms of action and to determine the ideal dosing schedule, duration of therapy enrolment and overall maintenance therapy.
Of special interest will be its role in combination with both standard agents and new drugs.” There are some similar isomers in nature. For example, a hydroxypropanoic acid, or lactic acid, molecule’s isomers are optically active. “Optically active” means “terms used of certain isomeric substances which, while identical with each other in other respects, differ in this, viz., that they do or do not produce right-handed or left-handed circular polarization of light.
” And a aminopropanoic acid’s (alanine) molecule’s isomers are optically inactive. “Optically inactive” means “there is no net rotation of plane-polarized light.”