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Thalidomide: Information, Uses and Side Effects

Published: 2015-08-18 - Updated: 2020-09-09
Author: Thomas C. Weiss | Contact: Disabled World (
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A

Synopsis: Information regarding Thalidomide, also known as Immunoprin, Talidex, Talizer, or Thalomid, including uses, side effects, special precautions, and the storing and disposal of Thalidomide. Thalidomide comes in capsule form and is taken orally. It is usually taken with water once each day at bedtime and at least an hour after an evening meal. Before taking thalidomide it is important to tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to the medication or any other medications.


Main Digest

Thalidomide currently sold as Immunoprin, Talidex, Talizer, or Thalomid, is an immunomodulatory drug and the prototype of the thalidomide class of drugs. Thalidomide is used for a number of conditions including erythema nodosum leprosum, multiple myeloma (in combination with dexamethasone), and various other cancers, for some symptoms of HIV/AIDS, Crohn's disease, sarcoidosis, graft-versus-host disease, rheumatoid arthritis and a number of skin conditions that have not responded to usual treatment.

This article is part our digest of 146 publications relating to Pharmaceutical Information that include:

Thalidomide is used in conjunction with dexamethasone to treat multiple myeloma in those who have been recently discovered to experience the disease. Thalidomide is also used alone or with other medications to prevent and treat skin symptoms of erythema nodosum leprosum (ENL); fever, episodes of skin sores, as well as nerve damage that happen in people with Hansen's disease or leprosy. Thalidomide is in a class of medications referred to as, 'immunomodulatory agents.' It treats multiple myeloma by strengthening the person's immune system to fight cancer cells. It treats ENL by blocking the action of certain natural substances that cause swelling.

Using Thalidomide

Thalidomide comes in capsule form and is taken orally. It is usually taken with water once each day at bedtime and at least an hour after an evening meal. If you are taking thalidomide to treat ENL, a doctor might tell you to take it more than one time each day, at least an hour after meals. Take the medication at around the same time every day. Follow the instructions on the prescription label carefully and ask a doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not fully understand. Take thalidomide precisely as you are directed to. Do not take more or less of the medication or take it more often than it has been prescribed to you.

Keep the capsules in their packaging until it is time to take one. Do not open the capsules, or handle them more than you need to. If you skin comes into contact with broken capsules or powder, was the area that has been exposed with soap and water.

The length of a person's treatment depends on how their symptoms respond to thalidomide and whether their symptoms return after they stop taking the medication. A doctor might need to interrupt your treatment, or reduce your dosage, if you experience certain side-effects. Do not stop taking thalidomide without consulting your doctor. When your treatment is complete, your doctor will most likely gradually decrease your dose.

Additional Uses for Thalidomide

At times, thalidomide is also used to treat skin conditions involving irritation and swelling. It is also used to treat some complications of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) such as, 'aphthous stomatitis,' a condition in which ulcers form in a person's mouth, HIV-associated diarrhea, HIV-associated wasting syndrome, certain infections and Kaposi's sarcoma, a form of skin cancer. Thalidomide has been used to treat some types of tumors and cancer, severe weight loss in people with weakened immune systems, chronic graft versus host disease, as well as Crohn's disease. It is always a good idea to contact your doctor about the risks of using any medication, to include thalidomide.

Thalidomide Special Precautions

Before taking thalidomide it is important to tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to the medication or any other medications. It is important to tell your doctor if you have HIV, AIDS, or seizures. Tell your doctor if you are breast feeding. Other things to know prior to taking thalidomide include:

Tell your doctor and pharmacist what other medications you are taking, both prescription and nonprescription; nutritional supplements, vitamins and herbal products are ones you need to tell your doctor about as well. Be certain to mention the medications listed in the, 'Important Warning,' section and any of the following:

  • Sedatives
  • Reserpine
  • Vincristine
  • Didanosine
  • Barbiturates
  • Tranquilizers
  • Sleeping pills
  • Chlorpromazine
  • Antidepressants
  • Certain chemotherapy medications for cancer
  • Medications for anxiety, mental illness, or seizures

A doctor might need to change the dosages of your medications, or monitor you carefully for side-effects. Unless your doctor tells you differently, continue your usual diet. If you forget to take a dose of thalidomide, take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. If it is less than 12 hours until your next scheduled dose; however, skip the missed dose and continue your usually scheduled dose. Do not take a double dose of thalidomide to make up for one that has been missed.

Thalidomide Side-Effects

Thalidomide may cause certain side-effects. Some of these side-effects are not pleasant and may be serious. Contact your doctor if any of the following symptoms are severe, or fail to go away:

  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Dry skin
  • Seizures
  • Pale skin
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Hoarseness
  • Constipation
  • Weight changes
  • Change in appetite
  • Slow or fast heartbeat
  • Blistering and peeling skin
  • Depression or mood changes
  • Bone, muscle, joint, or back pain
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
  • Difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection
  • Swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, or eyes
  • Fever, sore throat, chills, cough, or other signs of infection

Thalidomide might cause nerve damage that is both severe and permanent. The damage may happen at any time during or after treatment. A doctor will examine you on a regular basis to see how thalidomide has affected your nervous system. If you experience tingling, numbness, a burning sensation in your feet or hands, or pain, it is important to contact your doctor at once. The medication might cause other side-effects as well; contact your doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms while taking thalidomide.

Storing and Disposal of Thalidomide

Keep thalidomide in the container it came in, out of reach of children and tightly closed. Store the medication at room temperature and away from excess moisture and heat. When you no longer need a medication, you should get rid of it as safely as possible. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist and read any informational guide that came with the prescription to learn how to safely dispose of Thalidomide - and any other medication(s) you no longer use.

In case of an overdose, contact your local poison control center. If the person taking thalidomide has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911 at once. Keep all of your appointments with your doctor. Your doctor will order certain laboratory tests to check on your body's response to thalidomide.

It is important to keep a written list of all of the medications you are taking, both prescription and nonprescription, as well as any products such as minerals, vitamins, or other dietary supplements. You need to bring the list with you every time you visit your doctor, or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to have with you in the event of an emergency.


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Author Credentials:

Thomas C. Weiss is a researcher and editor for Disabled World. Thomas attended college and university courses earning a Masters, Bachelors and two Associate degrees, as well as pursing Disability Studies. As a Nursing Assistant Thomas has assisted people from a variety of racial, religious, gender, class, and age groups by providing care for people with all forms of disabilities from Multiple Sclerosis to Parkinson's; para and quadriplegia to Spina Bifida.

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Cite This Page (APA): Thomas C. Weiss. (2015, August 18). Thalidomide: Information, Uses and Side Effects. Disabled World. Retrieved August 11, 2022 from

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