Top 10 Weirdest Prescription Drug Side Effects

Weird Side Effect 1: Birth Defects

A Thalidomide child painting at home.
A Thalidomide child painting at home.
Nov. 15, 1968: A Thalidomide child painting at home.

When a woman becomes pregnant, her doctor usually gives her a huge list of do's and don'ts. She should stay away from certain medications, for example, because they can cause problems during pregnancy. There are several prescription drugs that work very well at resolving the condition they were prescribed for, except that they're teratogenic. That means that they can interfere with fetal development and lead to birth defects.

Thalidomide is one of the most infamous teratogenic drugs. First synthesized in Germany in the 1950s, this drug was prescribed as a sleeping aid and anti-nausea pill to thousands of pregnant women in nearly 50 countries (although it hadn't been approved in the United States). Unfortunately, it was never proven to be safe for pregnant women. Between 1956 and 1962, nearly 10,000 women who took Thalidomide gave birth to babies with phocomelia [source: Bartfai and Lees]. Often referred to as "flipper babies," these children were born with extremely short or missing limbs.

Thalidomide ­­was taken off the market and drug testing and approval practices across the world were tightened. Surviving victims of Thalidomide, whose families received compensation from the drug's manufacturer, Grunenthal, are currently seeking additional compensation from both Grunenthal and the German government [source: Reuters]. Thalidomide has recently returned, with strict controls, for treatment of a certain type of leprosy lesion as well as multiple myeloma, a type of cancer [source: Speige].

Accutane is a drug used to treat severe acne that can also cause phocomelia. Because of this, women who are prescribed the drug must commit to following a strict regimen so that they don't become pregnant while taking it. This includes certifying that they will use two methods of birth control (and have an emergency backup) and also have their blood drawn monthly to test for pregnancy before receiving a prescription refill. They also agree not to donate blood so they don't pass the drug on to other women.

Ultimately, all drugs have some side effects, and most of them aren't as weird as the ones we've discussed here. Always read the side effect information that comes with your prescription drugs and discuss them with your doctor.

For more articles on prescription drugs and health care, please see the next page.

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