Thalidomide is back, and this time it’s going to help you live longer. From being the world’s most feared drug – and which launched an industry of tighter regulation and safety controls – it is this week being heralded as a ‘fountain of youth’.
Revlimia (lenalidomide), a cancer drug that is a derivative of thalidomide, could restore key elements of the immune system that are associated with ill health as we age, say researchers from the University of California at San Francisco, led by allergist Edward Goetzl. “If you could take a low-dosage pill with no side effects, wouldn’t you do it?” Goetzl asks.
Possibly so, but Revlimia doesn’t fit the description. Designed to treat multiple myeloma, its availability is restricted in the UK, while the US’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has included it in its list of 20 drugs under investigation for potential safety problems. As a derivative of thalidomide, pregnant women must never take it as it interferes with the growth of the fetus. Other side effects include thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, both fatal conditions, hepatotoxicity – liver damage – and bone marrow toxicity.
Aside from those, it has no side effects.
(Source: Clinical Immunology, 2010; doi: 10.1016/j.clim.2010.11.002).