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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Thalidomide (Thalomid®)


Brand Name: Thalomid®

Thalidomide is used to treat multiple myeloma.

Thalidomide belongs in a class of drugs called immunomodulatory agents. It treats multiple myeloma by strengthening the immune system.

This medication comes as a capsule that is taken by mouth. Usually, thalidomide is taken once daily with water, either at bedtime or at least an hour after an evening meal. Thalidomide should be taken at about the same time each day. The exact dose and duration of treatment may vary depending on several factors, including the type of cancer being treated, how well the medication is working, how well your body is tolerating the drug, and what other medications you are taking. Your doctor will recommend the approach that is best for you.

Thalidomide side effects

To prevent problematic interactions between thalidomide and other drugs, be sure to tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medications, and what other medications and supplements you are currently taking. You should also inform your doctor if you have or ever had a liver tumor, liver, or kidney disease, HIV, AIDS, or seizures.

Thalidomide carries a risk of severe, life-threatening birth defects. The FDA has approved a program called System for Thalidomide Education and Prescribing Safety with which any man or woman taking thalidomide must register. Women taking thalidomide must use two acceptable forms of birth control for 4 weeks prior to treatment, and must have a negative pregnancy test within 24 hours before beginning treatment. Stop taking the drug immediately if you think you may have become pregnant, have an irregular or missed period, or have sex without using two forms of birth control. Men must use a latex condom or avoid sexual contact with a woman who is pregnant or may become pregnant during treatment with thalidomide and for 4 weeks after treatment has been stopped. Do not breastfeed while taking thalidomide.

Do not donate blood, sperm, or semen during treatment with thalidomide.

Possible side effects may include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety, depression, or other mood changes
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry or pale skin
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
  • Swelling of the hands, feet, ankles or lower legs
  • Difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection

Some of thalidomide’s side effects can be serious. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Rash
  • Blistering and peeling skin
  • Swelling of facial features
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Sore throat, fever, chills or other signs of infection
  • Slow or fast heartbeat
  • Seizures

Thalidomide may cause temporary or permanent nerve damage.

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list. Patients may experience additional effects not mentioned above.

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), your team of cancer experts will explain each of the side effects of thalidomide with you in detail, as well as the side effects and expectations of all other medications planned as part of your individualized treatment plan.

Thalidomide for cancer treatment

Thalidomide is approved by the FDA for the following cancer treatment:

  • In combination with dexamethasone for the treatment of newly diagnosed multiple myeloma

At CTCA, our integrative approach to cancer treatment works to fight your disease on all fronts and ensures that you remain at the center of everything we do. We encourage participation from both you and your family to make certain you are comfortable with all decisions made regarding your treatment.

The information provided here is for educational purposes only. In no way should it be considered as offering medical advice. Cancer Treatment Centers of America assumes no responsibility for how this material is used. Please check with a physician if you suspect you are ill. Also note that while Cancer Treatment Centers of America frequently updates its contents, medical information changes rapidly. Therefore, some information may be out of date.