Thalidomide, the tranquilizer banned worldwide for causing severe birth defects, heals the severe mouth ulcers that plague AIDS patients, the National Institutes of Health announced Tuesday.
The NIH found thalidomide worked so well that it has stopped giving a placebo to AIDS patients enrolled in a 30-hospital trial of the drug.
Early trial results showed 14 of 23 patients who got thalidomide had their ulcers heal, compared with only one of 22 patients who took a placebo.
Thalidomide caused birth defects in at least 12,000 babies in 48 countries before it was banned in 1962. It never was sold in the United States, because the Food and Drug Administration caught its risks early.
But today, thalidomide is being studied anew as a treatment for certain illnesses.