Thalidomide (Oral)

Thalidomide (By Mouth)

Thalidomide (tha-LI-doe-mide)

Treats ENL (erythema nodosum leprosum), a painful skin problem caused by Hansen’s disease (leprosy).

Brand Name(s):

There may be other brand names for this medicine.

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used:

This medicine can cause serious or life-threatening birth defects in unborn babies. You should not use this medicine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you may become pregnant during treatment. You should not use this medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to thalidomide.

How to Use This Medicine:


  • Your doctor will tell you how much of this medicine to use and how often. Do not use more medicine or use it more often than your doctor tells you to.  
  • You will be asked to sign a consent and agreement form before you take this medicine. This form tells you about the risks of using this medicine and the guidelines for safe use. Make sure you understand what is on the form before you sign it. You will also be asked to take part in a telephone survey and have your name placed on a patient registry list. If you have any questions ask your doctor.

If a dose is missed::

  • If you miss a dose or forget to use your medicine, use it as soon as you can. If it is almost time for your next dose, wait until then to take the medicine and skip the missed dose.  
  • Do not use extra medicine to make up for a missed dose.

How to Store and Dispose of This Medicine:

  • Store the medicine at room temperature in a closed container, away from heat, moisture, and direct light.  
  • Keep all medicine out of the reach of children and never share your medicine with anyone.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Make sure you tell your doctor about ALL other medicines you are using. This is especially important if you are a woman taking birth control pills while you are using thalidomide. Some medicines can cause birth control pills not to work as well to prevent pregnancy, and you should not take thalidomide if you get pregnant.  
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you are using any medicines that make you sleepy (such as sleeping pills, cold and allergy medicine, narcotic pain relievers, or sedatives).  
  • Do not drink alcohol while you are using this medicine.

Warnings While Using This Medicine:

  • This medicine can cause birth defects if it is used by the mother while she is pregnant or by the father when his sexual partner becomes pregnant. If a pregnancy occurs while you are using thalidomide, stop taking the medicine and tell your doctor right away.  
  • Use two forms of effective birth control to avoid pregnancy for 4 weeks before you start using thalidomide, all during your treatment, and for at least 4 weeks after your treatment ends. This is very important whether you are a man or a woman. The most effective forms of birth control include birth control pills or implants, a diaphragm or cervical cap, an IUD, tubal ligation (for women), or vasectomy and a condom (for men).  
  • If you are a woman, your doctor will do tests to make sure you are not pregnant before starting thalidomide therapy. These tests will be repeated every month while you are using this medicine. If you are a man, you should use a latex condom every time you have sexual intercourse with a woman who could possibly get pregnant. You must use a latex condom even if you have had a vasectomy.  
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you have a seizure disorder.  
  • Do not donate blood or sperm while you are using thalidomide.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine:

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in face or hands, swelling or tingling in the mouth or throat, tightness in chest, trouble breathing  
  • Blistering, peeling, red skin rash  
  • Late or missed menstrual period  
  • Lightheadedness, fainting, or seizures  
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning pain in your hands, arms, legs, or feet  
  • Slow heartbeat  
  • Unusual bleeding, bruising, or weakness

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Dizziness, drowsiness, or sleepiness

Johns Hopkins patient information

Copyright 1996-2014 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 16.02.
Revision date: June 11, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.

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The drug reference included in this section is provided by Cerner Multum, Inc., of Denver, Colorado. Armenian Medical Network receives monthly updates from Multum.