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Definition of THALIDOMIDE
: a drug C13H10N2O4 that was formerly used as a sedative and is now used as an immunomodulatory agent especially in the treatment of leprosy and that is known to cause malformations of infants born to mothers using it during pregnancy
Drug formerly used as a sedative and to prevent morning sickness during pregnancy. Synthesized in 1954, it was introduced in almost 50 countries, including West Germany and Britain, where it became popular because it was effective and huge overdoses were not fatal. In 1961 it was found to cause congenital disorders; when it is taken in early pregnancy, some 20% of fetuses have phocomelia (defective development of the limbs) and other deformities; 5,000–10,000 such babies were born. It was never distributed for clinical use in the U.S. (seeHelen Brooke Taussig). Thalidomide appears effective against inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, including certain late-stage AIDS symptoms, and is licensed for use in such treatments in some countries.