NIH News Advisory
Office of the Director

Friday, Sept. 5, 1997

Bill Hall
NIH Office of Disease Prevention
(301) 496-4819

NIH Will Hold Public Scientific Workshop
on Thalidomide: Potential Benefits and Risks

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will hold an open public scientific workshop on Thalidomide: Potential Benefits and Risks September 9-10, 1997 in the main auditorium of the William H. Natcher Building on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The meeting is cosponsored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The use of thalidomide as a treatment for morning sickness and insomnia was abandoned in the early 1960ís when it was identified as the cause of more than 10,000 reported cases of birth defects in infants exposed to the drug during fetal development. Defects observed included missing or abnormal legs, arms, feet, and hands; spinal cord defects; cleft lip or palate; absent or abnormal external ears; heart, kidney, and genital abnormalities; and abnormal formation of the digestive system.

Recent research, however, suggests that thalidomide may be a potential treatment in a variety of medical conditions, including erythema nodosum leprosum (leprosy), lupus erythematosus, chronic graft versus host disease, infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, brain tumors and several other cancers, and aphthous ulcers and weight loss common in AIDS patients. More than 1,000 patients in the United States are using thalidomide either on an FDA-authorized compassionate use basis or in clinical research trials.

The purpose of this workshop is to provide a public forum to assess emerging research opportunities, potential clinical applications, and the accompanying risks associated with the use of thalidomide.

A complete agenda and background information on the meeting, along with an extensive bibliography on thalidomide research is available on the Internet at To register for this meeting, call 301-468-MEET or submit the online registration form on the Web site.