Dermatologic and nondermatologic uses of thalidomide

Maria R. Nasca, Giuseppe Micali, Nina H. Cheigh, Lee E. West, Dennis P. West*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To review published data on thalidomide, with emphasis on current knowledge about mechanism of action, new and/or potential dermatologic and nondermatologic therapeutic applications, well-known and emerging adverse effects, and current indications for its safe use. DATA SOURCES: Review articles, in vitro research studies, references from retrieved articles, case reports, and clinical trials were identified from a computerized literature search using MEDLINE and OVID (1966-January 2003) and on the Cochrane Clinical Trials Register (January 2003). Information available from meetings' abstract books, Internet, or pharmaceutical companies was also considered. STUDY SELECTION AND DATA EXTRACTION: All articles identified as relevant, including those from non-English literature, were considered in an attempt to provide to the reader both the theoretical basis and practical guidelines for thalidomide pharmacotherapy. DATA SYNTHESIS: Thalidomide has hypnosedative, antiangiogenic, antiinflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties. Moreover, it has been shown to selectively inhibit the production of tumor necrosis factor-α and reduce the expression of various integrin receptors on the membrane of leukocytes and other cell types in a dose-dependent fashion. Controlled trials demonstrated the efficacy of thalidomide in a number of diseases, including erythema nodosum leprosum, lupus erythematosus, aphthosis, graft-versus-host disease, prurigo nodularis, and actinic prurigo. Single case reports or studies in small series have also suggested a possible role for thalidomide in numerous other dermatologic and nondermatologic disorders. Possibly severe and sometimes irreversible risks related to the clinical use of thalidomide include teratogenicity and neurotoxicity. CONCLUSIONS: Although teratogenicity and neurotoxicity are significant adverse effects requiring cautious use, thalidomide is an effective therapeutic modality in a variety of difficult-to-treat disorders and, providing careful selection of patients, should offer an acceptable risk-to-benefit ratio.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1307-1320
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of Pharmacotherapy
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003


  • Dermatologic disorders
  • Thalidomide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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