Thalidomide: patented in Germany as a non-toxic cure-all for sleeplessness and morning sickness. A wonder drug with no side effects.
We know differently now.
Today, thalidomide is a byword for tragedy and drug reform – a sign of what happens when things aren’t done ‘the right way’. But when it was released in the 1950s, it was the best thing since penicillin – something that doctors were encouraged to prescribe to all of their patients. Nobody could anticipate what it actually did: induce sleeping, prevent morning sickness, and drastically harm unborn children.
But, whilst thalidomide rampaged and ravaged throughout most of the West, it never reached the United States. It landed on the desk of Dr Frances Kelsey, and there it stayed as she battled bureaucracy, patriarchy, and the Establishment in an effort to prove that it was dangerous.
Frankie is her story.
Frankie is available in ebook and paperback now using the link below. Please note I use Amazon just for ease but it will also be available from other bookstores.
I found this to be a truly fascinating story about a remarkable woman that I sadly hadn’t heard about before.
Thalidomide is something I remember hearing about from my mum when I was quite young as I think the fallout from it was still being felt in the 80s. It’s quite shocking to learn more about how it came onto the market and how long it took for them to realise the effect it was having on unborn babies. The greed from the drugs companies to try and profit from this drug above patients health was awful to read about and quite poignant as i don’t think much has changed in that regard.
Frankie comes across as a strong, clever and remarkable woman who fights against extreme pressure to stop Thalidomide going into the American market. It’s very lucky that the drug ended up on Frankie’s desk and that her boss has faith in her so were happy to back her up. What’s even more remarkable about this is that woman were still considered the weaker sex in the 50’s and therefore Frankie must have had an even bigger fight on her hands.
The author cleverly uses lots of different sources to back up her narrative which makes for fascinating reading. The letters to and from the FDA, interviews after the tragedy and parts of her own memoir help tell the story and show the story from different angles.
I think this would be a great book for teenagers to read, especially girls, as Frankie is a great role model, who might encourage more to go into jobs like hers. It’s a huge shame that more people don’t know about her story.
Huge thanks to Rachel from Rachel’s Random resources for my copy of this book and for inviting me onto the blog tour.
About The Author:
JAMES ESSINGER is an established author of narrative non-fiction books focusing on STEM subjects and personalities. These include Ada’s Algorithm: How Lord Byron’s Daughter Launched the Digital Age Through the Poetry of Numbers. He lives in Canterbury.
SANDRA KOUTZENKO is a bilingual writer whose work spans a variety of categories and topics, ranging from French poetry to English non-fiction, focusing on human nature and the conflict between its potential for greatness and its propensity for destruction.