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D. From Disaster to Potential Life Saver

Narrator: This is Science Today. In the early 1960's, the drug thalidomide become synonymous with disaster after it caused terrible birth defects in Europe. It was never approved in the United States. Today, researchers are studying evidence that it can fight AIDS wasting, the sometimes fatal weight loss that accompanies AIDS. Dr. Morris Schambelan of the University of California, San Francisco is one of the doctors testing the drug on volunteers.

Schambelan: Thalidomide's actually been used over the past 20 or 30 years in a very select situation, which is to treat a complication of leprosy. People have taken the drug for 15 or 20 years and have done extremely well on it.

Narrator: In designing their study, researchers had to take into account one major factor: the purpose for which thalidomide was invented.

Schambelan: It's a sedative, it turned out to be a very good sedative, in fact one of its side effects is sedation. And we've decided to deal with that in our study by giving it as a single dose at night, so that rather than having this be a side effect, hopefully it'll help people sleep better.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Steve Tokar.