Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Lupus Health Center

Font Size

Thalidomide Helps Lupus Skin Rash

8 Weeks of Low Dose Helps Most
WebMD Health News

Jan. 24, 2003 -- Thalidomide helps treatment-resistant skin rash in lupus patients. This means the FDA should ease the strict rules limiting use of the birth-defect-causing drug, researchers argue.

No drug anywhere is more infamous than thalidomide. Originally a tranquilizer frequently given to women, the drug caused a large number of horrible birth defects. That ended its use -- until scientists found that thalidomide can dampen harmful immune reactions.

It's been known since 1975 that thalidomide treatment helps the severe skin rash seen in some lupus patients. But since there are other drugs, few doctors now risk using the drug. That's all well and good -- except that these drugs don't work for all patients, and sometimes they stop working.

Now Tamara Salam Housman, MD, and colleagues at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., show that a relatively low, 100 mg dose of thalidomide works when other agents have failed. They gave the drug to 23 patients whose skin lupus didn't get better after conventional treatment.

Seventeen of the 23 patients got completely better. Three patients had 75% or better improvement. And 91% of the time, these improvements came within eight weeks of starting thalidomide treatment.

"We believe that low-dose thalidomide ... has earned a niche on the therapeutic ladder in the management of these [treatment-resistant lupus rashes]," Housman and colleagues write in the January 2003 issue of the Archives of Dermatology.

Because of its dangers, patients who take thalidomide -- and their doctors and pharmacists -- must follow stringent rules for counseling, monitoring, birth control, pregnancy testing, and prescribing. Housman and colleagues argue that these rules should be eased for dermatologists who prescribe thalidomide for lupus patients. They say these doctors already have experience in safely prescribing other drugs that cause birth defects, such as Accutane for acne.

Today on WebMD

grocery shopping list
And the memory problems that may come with it.
Lupus rash on nails
A detailed, visual guide.
sunburst filtering through leaves
You might be extra sensitive to UV light. Read on.
fruit drinks
For better focus in your life.
Woman rubbing shoulder
Bag of cosmetics
young woman hiding face
pregnant woman
5 Lupus Risk Factors
Young adult couple
doctor advising patient
sticky notes on face

WebMD Special Sections