Medical Malpractice: FDA Pharmacist Who Saved Thousands Turns 100

A pharmacist named Frances Oldham Kelsey recently turned 100 years of age. These days, the woman’s name is not very well known. However, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, her actions prevented a nationwide health catastrophe that would have resulted in thousands upon thousands of babies suffering birth injury and premature death. If only we had more individuals like this woman working at the FDA today, numerous medical malpractice and defective drug cases in New Mexico likely could have been avoided.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a new drug appeared on the market, called thalidomide. Thalidomide was a tranquilizer and sedative, which was being marketed to women as a treatment for morning sickness. However, individuals taking the drug in various parts of the world suffered miscarriages. It was also connected to causing 10,000 or more birth defects in 46 different countries.

Birth defects caused by the drug included babies born without limbs, babies born with brain defects, and other birth injuries. The different types of birth injury were not at first connected to the drug, and it was administered extensively in England and Europe. Thanks to one staunch employee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) named Frances Oldham Kelsey, the United States was spared a wide-scale epidemic. She delayed the release of the drug in America, pending further review as a result of a connection she found with the drug causing nervous system problems.

The FDA pharmacist faced a great deal of criticism for her refusal to immediately approve the drug. However, her delay paid off. Later, the birth injury caused by the drug was revealed, and it soon became clear that Kelsey was a national hero. In 1962, she received the President’s Award for Distinguished Civilian Service.

While it is fortunate that this drug was caught before it caused thousands of children to suffer birth injury in New Mexico and the rest of the United States, there may be dangerous drugs that are currently on the market today. Indeed, various drugs have been linked to causing birth injury, heart defects, spina bifida and other serious health problems in babies. Those whose children suffer a birth injury due to a drug prescription may wish to investigate the possibility of pursuing a medical malpractice and/or defective drug claim to pursue financial damages relating to their child’s injuries.

Source: Baltimore Post-Examiner, “Frances Oldham Kelsey – a true American hero turns 100“, Martin Sieff, July 26, 2014

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