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Cursed by 'miracle drug,' thalidomide victims wait for Canada's apology Add to ...

"If someone has wronged you, it's only human to say I'm sorry," Anne Marie Bainbridge says. "Someone should stand up and say, 'I was responsible for this.' No one ever has."


Wrongly hailed as a wonder drug, thalidomide was available in Canada for a few brief years but caused life-long harm to 125 babies

Thalidomide is a teratogenic drug, causing malformations in the fetus. The extent of damage depended on when the drug was taken during gestation. The most common birth defect associated with the drug was phocomelia, from the Greek words phoke meaning "seal" and melos meaning "limb." Hands, feet, or both, started immediately from the shoulder or hip.

1957 Thalidomide is marketed in West Germany. It is hailed as a wonder drug providing a "safe, sound sleep" and a treatment for nausea in pregnant women.

1959 The William S. Merrell Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, starts developing thalidomide under brand name Kevadon. Thalidomide becomes available in sample form in Canada.

April, 1961 Thalidomide is licensed for prescription use in Canada.

November-December, 1961 Thalidomide is taken off the market in West Germany and Britain as evidence links it to congenital malformations.

March, 1962 Thalidomide is withdrawn from the market in Canada. About 125 babies are already born with malformations.

1998 U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the drug for treating complications related to leprosy. The FDA promises to make it one of the most tightly restricted medications ever marketed.

2006 Thalidomide is authorized in the U.S. to treat multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, under strictly controlled distribution.

Ingrid Peritz

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