Written by a committee, Suffer the Children represents an effort to chronicle the worldwide disaster of about two decades ago produced by the new sedative and hypnotic, thalidomide. When taken by women in early pregnancy, the drug produced an array of fatal or severely crippling birth defects in the offspring. Phocomelia was a common deformity and the one most widely publicized. Mental retardation was not typical but sometimes occurred.
Thalidomide was developed by the German pharmaceutical firm, Chemie Grünenthal, and was first marketed in 1957. Soon, it was being sold under license by many companies throughout the world, including one heavily featured in Suffer the Children, Distillers Company (Biochemicals) Ltd in Great Britain. The Food and Drug Administration never permitted its marketing in the United States, although it underwent extensive use there under investigational status. Various uses of the drug included treatment of nausea caused by pregnancy.
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