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December 2009

Thalidomide to treat multiple myeloma

Few drugs, if any, have achieved the sad notoriety of thalidomide. Introduced in the late 1950s, it caused congenital birth defects in thousands of children worldwide and has been one of the most cautionary tales in the history of medicine. The medicine was banned at the beginning of the 1960s. During the years that followed, some beneficial effects of thalidomide were recognised for various disorders, and in Europe, since the ban, thalidomide has been used off-license and prescribed on a compassionate basis, mainly in hospitals.
In 2002, the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) received four marketing authorisation applications for thalidomide, which brought issues back to the surface. For the thalidomide victim associations, it was simply unacceptable that the drug be licensed again, and for the patient associations, it represented a major medical progress against their ailment.
As of 2006, however, no marketing applications had been authorised. Eurordis continued to work with all stakeholders to encourage marketing authorisation for thalidomide under strong safety guidelines.