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.

What are the side effects of thalidomide?

The most common side effects are:

Other important side effects include:

Thalidomide also causes nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy), slow heart rate, hypertension, hypotension, and a decrease in white blood cells. Symptoms of nerve damage are tingling, numbness and pain in the feet or hands.

What is the dosage for thalidomide?

The recommended adult dose is 100-400 mg daily for treatment of leprosy. The dose for treating multiple myeloma is 200 mg daily in combination with dexamethasone. Thalidomide should be administered in the evening at least one hour after meals and with a full glass of water.


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Which drugs or supplements interact with thalidomide?

Thalidomide increases the sedative effect of alcohol and other drugs that cause drowsiness (for example, diazepam [Valium]). Drugs that slow heart rate add to the heart slowing effects of thalidomide. Examples of such drugs include calcium channel blockers (CCBs), beta blockers, and digoxin (Lanoxin). The incidence of peripheral neuropathy increases when thalidomide is combined with other drugs (for example, amiodarone [Cordarone], cisplatin, phenytoin [Dilantin, Dilantin-125]) that also cause peripheral neuropathy.

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.


Thalidomide (Thalomid) is a drug prescribed for the treatment and prevention of skin conditions that result from leprosy and multiple myelomas. Off-label uses include the treatment of tuberculosis (TB), aphthous ulcers, HIV-wasting syndrome, Crohn's disease, and Kaposi's sarcoma. Review side effects, drug interactions, dosage, and information about preventing birth defects prior to taking this medication.

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See more info: thalidomide on RxList
Medically Reviewed on 8/20/2019
FDA Prescribing Information