Thalidomide is used to control a serious type of cancer called multiple myeloma and symptoms of leprosy. This medication was first used in the 1950s to control symptoms of morning sickness before it was discovered that this was harmful to fetuses. The medication works my strengthening the immune system so that it can more easily fight cancer cells.
It is vital to avoid this medication while pregnant. Thalidomide causes serious birth defects, most infamously deformed limbs, and can sometimes cause the death of the fetus. Due to the risk to fetuses, women must test negatively for pregnancy and use two forms of birth control while on this medication and for four weeks afterwards. Men on this medication must use latex condoms or avoid sexual activity with women who can become pregnant.
Patients who take this medication for multiple myeloma are at risk of developing blood clots in their lungs or legs. This is especially true if the medication is taken along with other chemotherapy medications.