Removing the fear: Thalidomide’s evolution

DR MELITA Kenealy is a Melbourne haematologist with a particular interest in myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). The disease, which typically affects people in their 60s, is characterised by anaemia, neutropenia and thrombocytopenia leading to acute leukaemia in about one in three patients. 

While there are very few treatment options available to patients with this disease, one drug that has had some success is thalidomide.

“But as soon as you tell a patient that you want to start them on thalidomide, the first thing they say is: Isn’t that a really bad drug?”

What many patients don’t understand, explains Dr Kenealy, is that thalidomide has been used frequently and with very good outcomes in treating a number of haematological diseases. 

“When you explain these benefits to patients, explain that monitoring processes are in place...and explain the care taken in order to keep it from people who may become