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Rock Brynner, historian and novelist, earned his M.A. in Philosophy from Trinity College, Dublin, and his Ph.D. in History from Columbia University. This is his fifth book. Trent Stephens, Professor of Anatomy and Embryology at Idaho State University, is the author of numerous books. He has been researching thalidomide for almost twenty-five years.


Every once in a while a book on a specialized subject appears that every library should buy. This treatment of the notorious drug thalidomide is such a work. Stephens (anatomy and embryology, Idaho State Univ.), who has studied the drug for almost 25 years, and coauthor Brynner trace its history from its synthesis as a sedative in Germany in 1954, followed by the tragic births of children with severe defects such as missing arms, and legs that resembled flippers. The pharmaceutical companies tried to cover up the link between the drug and the birth defects, and approximately 10,000 severely deformed babies were born before thalidomide was banned. To bring this medical disaster home to the reader, the authors quote Randy Warren, a Canadian "thalidomider" who refuses to call himself a victim. Stephens and Brynner then recount how scientists, including Stephens himself, began to discover almost by accident new uses for the drug without its disastrous side effects, ranging from treating symptoms of leprosy to AIDS. Today, thalidomide is approved by the FDA for a few specific conditions. This gripping book is highly recommended for all readers because it reminds us of the importance of drug regulation. Natalie Kupferberg, Biological Sciences/Pharmacy Lib., Ohio State Univ, Columbus Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Thalidomide, the drug notorious for causing deformities in infants during the late 1950s and early '60s, has been back in the newsDamazingly, it has been found useful in treating a range of diseases from cancer and leprosy to AIDS. Combining Stephens's expertise as a scientist researching thalidomide and novelist and historian Brynner's (The Doomsday Report) firsthand experience as a thalidomide recipient (he was given the drug to treat t a rare inflammatory disease), this compelling tale documents the history of a drug originally offered as a "safe" alternative to barbiturates (which were used by suicides). Very soon, it came to be linked to nerve damage in adults and to "flipper-like" limbs in babies born to women who took the drug. An arduous legal battle ensued, and the authors nicely highlight such figures as the FDA's Frances Kelsey, who fought successfully against the drug being approved for use in the U.S., and pediatrician Widukind Lenz, who linked thalidomide to the birth defects. In particular, however, the authors successfully convey the necessity of placing an "absolute commitment to truth" ahead of all other considerations when testing, prescribing or selling a drug. "The monster was never thalidomide itself," they claim of the drug that sparked FDA reform. While this moving account offers a chilling glimpse of how the profit motive can negatively affect many lives, it also includes a straightforward presentation of Stephens's pioneering research with thalidomideDresearch that he hopes will contribute to developing a truly safe alternative. (Feb.) Forecast: Brynner is the late actor Yul Brynner's son. That will undoubtedly help bring publicity to this title, which will draw a wide range of readers interested in the ethics and science of medical research. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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