What is thalidomide, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Thalidomide is an oral medication used for treating the skin conditions of leprosy, a disease caused by a parasite, Mycobacterium leprae. The mechanism of action of thalidomide is not well understood. The immune system reaction to Mycobacterium leprae plays an important role in producaing the skin manifestations of leprosy. Scientists believe that thalidomide modifies the reaction of the immune system to Mycobacterium leprae and thereby suppresses the skin reaction. Thalidomide also is being evaluated as a treatment for HIV and several other conditions. Thalidomide was approved by the FDA in July 1998.

What brand names are available for thalidomide?


Is thalidomide available as a generic drug?


Do I need a prescription for thalidomide?


What are the uses for thalidomide?

Thalidomide is prescribed for the treatment and prevention of skin conditions that result from leprosy, and multiple myelomas. Off-label uses include the treatment of tuberculosis, aphthous ulcers, HIV-wasting syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and Kaposi’s sarcoma.

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Is thalidomide safe to take if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

Thalidomide is very harmful to the fetus. Therefore, thalidomide should be avoided during pregnancy. Men and women who are taking thalidomide should use appropriate methods of birth control. Moreover, women of childbearing age should practice two forms of birth control concurrently. Men taking thalidomide should not donate sperm, and thalidomide users should not donate blood since the recipients of the sperm and blood may receive small amounts of thalidomide.

What else should I know about thalidomide?

What preparations of thalidomide are available?

Capsules: 50, 100, 150, and 200 mg

How should I keep thalidomide stored?

Thalidomide should be store at room temperature 15 C – 30 C (59 F – 86 F) and protected from light.

Medically Reviewed on 8/20/2019


Reference: FDA Prescribing Information