Blakeslee, Sandra. "Scorned Thalidomide Researched Anew," New York Times, 10 April 1990,
Elsewhere in this file it has been noted that a discredited scientist's work is itself usually
discredited. Thus, Summerlin's work skin frafting immunology went out the window when he
was found to be tampering with his animals. But his work has been rediscovered and found to be
promising. The baby does not necessarily get thrown out with the bath water: the drug
thalidomide has been found useful in the treatment of several diseases, a form of leprosy,
rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, some ulcerous diseases and others. But the drug, which caused birth
defects when it was used as a tranquilizer, has been scorned.
It may seem silly but: "Because of the drug's reputation, no American drug company
manufactures it..." And "It's taboo. Thalidomide changed drug regulatory processes throughout
the world. Most doctors won't even discuss it." Rational science here displays something less
than rationality. Is this an awareness of the possible lawsuits that patients might bring against
physicians who give them the drug or because physicians do respond to absurdity? I've seldom
seen such sensitivity to "side effects."
Slowly, now, thalidomide is being looked at again. It will take time, however, because no drug
house wishes to run the risk of lawsuit with such a known "dangerous drug."