How the thalidomide scandal led to safer drugs


ISLAMABAD, December 16 (online): Between 1957 and 1962, more than 10,000 babies were born with physical abnormalities caused by the drug thalidomide. Out of this came stricter regulations for approving new drugs and vaccines that remain in effect to this day.
The story of what some scientists have called “the biggest man-made medical disaster ever” began in West Germany in the 1950s, when researchers at the pharmaceutical company Chemie Grünenthal developed thalidomide.
In July 1956, medical authorities in West Germany licensed the drug for sale without a prescription. Thalidomide had been developed as a sedative or tranquilizer, but people were soon taking it for a range of conditions, including pneumonia, colds, and the flu, as well as to relieve nausea in early pregnancy.
Within a few years, Chemie Grünenthal had licensed 14 pharmaceutical companies to market thalidomide in 46 countries throughout the world under at least 37 brand names.