Thalidomide was at one time marketed as a sedative, but has been withdrawn. Recently, interest has increased in its use for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, canker sores in AIDS patients, AIDS wasting syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and leprosy.
Thalidomide has anti inflammatory and immunosuppressant effects making it ideal for these conditions. However, its use is reserved for severe cases.
Thalidomide can cause severe birth defects. It is teratogenic.
Peripheral neuropathy - numbness and tingling in the hands and feet - may occur. Other side effects include sedation, constipation, dry mouth, and dry skin. A hypersensitivity - edema, rash - may also happen
People - women - must ensure that they are not pregnant and do not become pregnant while taking thalidomide.
Thalidomide is only available in the United States and Canada on an investigational use basis. People must make arrangements through the appropriate government agencies in order to use the drug.
Because thalidomide causes drowsiness, in combination with other drugs that also cause drowsiness - alcohol included - marked sedation may occur.
Med Letter 1996;38(968):15
The relevant product monographs must be regarded as the appropriate sources of prescribing information.