halidomide, the notorious sedative that caused a wave of birth defects in the 1950s and 1960s, is "on its way to a second act," says Amanda Schaffer in Slate. The drug caused a scandal after women who had taken it as a cure for morning sickness gave birth to phocomelic children — with undeveloped or missing limbs and features. But 50 years later, the drug is steadily gaining respectability after being approved by the FDA for the treatment of leprosy and bone marrow cancer, and, astonishingly, showing promise as an "immune booster for the elderly." If this keeps up, the "most reviled drug of the 20th century" might end up being a significant lifesaver in the 21st, writes Schaffer. Here's an excerpt:
Today, scientists are investigating [thalidomide] and a close chemical cousin, to treat conditions from lupus to psoriasis and even as an immune booster for the elderly. This possibility is especially stunning because it means contemplating widespread usage of this class of drugs in basically healthy people and in a group old enough to recall the thalidomide tragedy firsthand...
For scientists to think of these compounds for broad usage, especially in people who aren't very sick, represents a profound comeback ... Considering how tough it is to get new drugs approved, though, the lesson of thalidomide is that it makes sense to look back at old ones and their chemical relatives. Even a former villain, put to a new task, can have a second life.
Read the entire article in Slate.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why are so many elderly Asians killing themselves?
- Why I'm sick and tired of seeing naked women on HBO
- Why ABC threw its Bachelor under the bus
- Driverless cars may be an environmental disaster
- Why Ted Cruz is the real-life Frank Underwood
- 22 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Watch Zach Galifianakis get annoyed at President Obama on Between Two Ferns
- Here's how Iran is covering Russia's invasion of Crimea
- Here's proof that Justin Bieber is just as spoiled as you always thought
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like
Subscribe to the Week