The controversial drug thalidomide, which was banned in 1962, is being reassessed to find out if it could again be prescribed to patients to treat rare forms of cancer and leprosy. The drug which is unlicensed in Europe was marketed in the 50s and 60s as a cure for morning sickness. However, it was banned after mothers who took it gave birth to deformed children.
The European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products (EMEA) is now considering whether the drug should be re-licensed for use across the EU, since recent studies have suggested that thalidomide could be a weapon in the fight against cancer and could help people with AIDS and other serious diseases. EMEA officials who met representatives of thalidomide victims as part of their consultation process, are focusing on the safeguards that would be needed if the drug is re-licensed.
The agency also suggested that even if the drug is approved, it will only be used on specific patients. These include patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow, which affects about 20,000 patients in Europe each year. Earlier, Dr. Claus Newman, a specialist in birth defects stated that thalidomide is a unique drug with powerful effects potentially for harm and good and its wider licensing will require extraordinary measures.