The drug, known to have a miracolous ability on treatments, produces tragedy all over the world

Thalidomide is not submitted to rigorous tests and is available in the market causing fetus deficiencies.

Thalidomide is a very dangerous drug, which deformes the fetus. The drug was developed in a Germany laboratory and it reached consumer market at the end of the 50’s. Considered as a tranquilizer and as an ansiolitics, thalidomide was largely used by pregnant women to help on controlling nausea and tension, very common during the first months of pregnancy.

Nevertheless, the initial relief turned into a nightmare as time went by. During the 60’s, many babies were born deformed, with no arms or legs, with vertebral deficiencies, blind or deaf.

After a while, they found out that these problems were caused by thalidomide. The drug was sold without being appropriated tested. In 1961, after many objections, thalidomide was forbidden all over the world. However, Brazil, once again, started to produce the drug in 1965, arguing that it was helpful to treat leprosy. Its fabrication was supposed to be under Government control as a way to avoid risks on its use.

However, Brazilian authorities had forgotten that in the country drugs are often sold with no prescription. Besides, people often take medicines following a friend’s, a neighbour’s or a relative’s advice. Even though thalidomide is not sold at drugstores, its risks cannot be avoided. Thalidomide is distributed at Government Health Centers without an appropriate control.

The drug, for example, comes on a simple pack, without any box or instructions about its serious and heavy collateral effects. The only warning that comes along the drug is an illustration of a pregnant woman with a symbol of forbidden on it. This illustration makes many women think that the medicine is good for interrupting an undesired pregnancy. They take it with the purpose of having an abortion but instead of interrupting pregnancy they are, in fact, condemning themselves to procreate a deformed baby.

Lack of information and lax control keep causing thalidomide victims. Fertile aged women are forbidden, by law, to take the drug, but they ignore this rule and keep taking it to relief nauseas and tension. It is amazing to figure out that Brazilian authorities don’t take proper care to avoid such situation. They don’t seem to be interested in making informative advertisement to instruct about the risks of thalidomide. In the contrary. The victims’ associations have to face, all the time, the Government burocracy and moroseness and usually they have to wait years and years for an official benefit.

Brazilian Government sponsors thalidomide production in the country

With the Government support, Brazil is the largest producer of thalidomide in the world. The drug is forbidden all over the world, but in Brazil it is produced by eight laboratories: FURP (Fundação para o Remédio Popular), TORTUGA Companhia Zootécnica Agrária, ECADIL, FARBOM, Labogen S/A, Champion Farmoquímico Ltda. e Microbiológica Química Farmacêutica Ltda. and at Fundação Ezequiel Dias (Funed), in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais state. The whole production is sent to the Health Ministery (Ministério da Saúde), responsible for its distribution among State Health Departments.

The departments have the official register of real state to distribute the drug among the Health Centers. Everything is done according to law.

According to the Sanitary Vigilance Center, thalidomide should be distributed only at the Government Health Centers but it is also found on alternative drugstores, which have the official register of real state to sell the drug when the prescription is retained.

According to official information, the control of thalidomide’s distribution follows severe rules, such as the prohibition to prescribe the drug to fertile aged women and the obligation to register, on an appropriate book, all drugs given to patient. However, things don’t happen this way. The neglicence on the distribution still makes victims. Patients, for instance, have the right to take the drug home, which means a great risk. Being not well informed, patients, by their own responsability, can recommend the drug to anyone. Tragedy keeps happening.


When it was first produced, the drug was known by three different names: Sedalis, Slip and Cedrin. Three different laboratories produced the pills, under the Government authorization. A department of the Health Ministery allowed its comercialization.

Two years ago, in 1993, Funed produced 2,348 boxes of thalidomide, which represents one million and 164 thousand pills. The drugs are sent to the Medicine Center (Ceme), responsible for controlling and distributing them. The production of 1994 was not informed by Funed, arguing that this subject is very “polemic and controversial”.

Recently, Funed started working in a project in order to change the drug packing. According to Funed, the warning used an illustration of a woman with a symbol of forbidden on it is not enough to alert properly. The projetct, approved by Health Ministery, shall out to be reality soon, by the end of this year, when more secure packs will be available.

EnvelopeMedicine doesn't come with a warning about its risks. Illustration confuses customers

Medicine doesn’t come with a warning about its risks. Illustration confuses customers