The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - Filipinos avoided the tragedy that befell thousands of people who used Thalidomide in the sixties and had children born without limbs, because local authorities banned the drug's entry just in time.
These days, however, Thalidomide, which was widely used as a drug to stop the "morning sickness" among pregnant women, is being used in the Philippines, having gained approval for use locally when it re-applied many years ago---to treat bone marrow cancer and reduce inflammations associated with leprosy.
The drug widely blamed for thousands of birth defects in Europe, Japan, Canada and Australia, is being sold in the Philippines as a dermatological drug and for cancer of the bone marrow, according to the Department of Health.
Health Undersecretary Ted Herbosa said Monday the German-manufactured drug did not make it to the Philippine market when it was banned in the early 1960s---thus, no birth defect locally was ever attributed to it. However, the drug was “re-registered” in the Bureau of Food and Drugs sometime between 1997 and 1998 as an anti-inflammatory drug for leprosy and bone marrow cancer.
“It’s being used to treat nodes because of leprosy and an anti-inflammatory treatment for cancer of the bone marrow. It’s not to be given to pregnant women,” Herbosa told InterAksyon.com in a telephone interview.
He added that thalidomide, the generic name for the drug, is a prescription medicine which means it cannot be purchased over the counter.
It can have side effects though – like malformation of the embryo and absence of limbs in infants.
Grunenthal, the German manufacturer of the anti-morning sickness drug, was widely criticized last week for issuing an apology--50 years later---for the birth defects of about 10,000 children affected by thalidomide.
A number of those children were born without limbs in countries like Britain, Germany, Japan, Canada, and Australia.
Herbosa said there are also cases in the Philippines were babies are born without limbs, but these are not due to thalidomide use.
He said birth defects among Filipino babies are mostly due to cleft lip and palate, other congenital abnormalities, viral infection and genetic abnormalities like down syndrome.