Professionalism/Frances Oldham Kelsey and Thalidomide

Biography and Background[edit]

Frances Oldham Kelsey was born in 1914 in Cobble Hill, British Columbia.
In 1934 and 1935, she earned a bachelor’s diploma in science and a grasp diploma in science from McGill College in Montreal [1]. Ultimately, she accepted a scholarship, the place she earned her Ph.D. from the College of Chicago, and went on to show there from 1938 to 1950 [2].In 1960 she moved to Washington, D.C., and started her lengthy and distinguished profession on the Meals and Drug Administration (FDA), the place she later grew to become chief of the Division of New Medication, director of the Division of Scientific Investigations [3]. Dr. Frances Kelsey took her stand towards thalidomide throughout her first month on the FDA, on her first task. The appliance was for thalidomide, a drug then well-liked in Europe to help sleep and alleviate nausea throughout being pregnant. Kelsey and her FDA colleagues discovered the security and toxicity information submitted by the corporate to be missing supportive proof, and he or she insisted that the corporate present higher information. These issues proved to be well-founded: a few yr later a European outbreak of phocomelia, a extreme beginning defect by which infants are born with out limbs or with severely deformed limbs, was related to using thalidomide throughout being pregnant. Kelsey’s refusal to approve the applying is credited with saving 1000’s of US youngsters from such a destiny. It additionally helped immediate large adjustments within the regulation of medication in america and overseas, adjustments she helped to form throughout her 45-year profession on the FDA [4].


Accutane (clinically often known as isotretinoin) was invented within the late 1950s to deal with pimples, although in its earliest trials it proved to have teratogenic results in animals, inflicting beginning defects when moms are uncovered to the drug.[5] Accutane is a human teratogen that may trigger a number of main malformations; the embryopathy related to publicity through the first trimester of being pregnant consists of craniofacial, cardiac, thymic, and central nervous system malformations.[6] The drug was launched in 1982 by Roche Prescribed drugs underneath FDA being pregnant class X which states that “the dangers concerned in use of the drug in pregnant girls clearly outweigh potential advantages” however says nothing about girls who might turn out to be pregnant. The drug was accepted for the remedy of extreme recalcitrant cystic pimples, however inside the first yr grew to become the drug of selection for treating all sorts of pimples, prescribed by practically 90% of dermatologists nationwide till the primary experiences of malformed infants got here in. Infants of accutane customers had been born with coronary heart and central nervous system issues, malformed or absent ears, wide-set eyes and typically a cleft palate. Every successive yr, as extra experiences got here in, Roche Prescribed drugs issued additional warnings and elevated labels, however the charge of beginning defects continued to develop.[7]


In Februrary of 1988 the Workplace of Epidemiology and Biostatistics on the FDA advisable that the drug be withdrawn from the market, however at Roche’s request, the FDA merely appointed a committee to evaluation the drug. A comply with up report was issued later that yr stating {that a} lady uncovered to Accutane in her first trimester had a 40% probability of miscarrying and a 25% probability of delivering a malformed child.
On the finish of 1988, the producer started a Being pregnant Prevention Program (PPP) that features academic supplies for each prescribers and sufferers and gives girls reimbursement for contraceptive counseling by a doctor. The PPP protocol states that ladies of reproductive potential should both abstain from sexual activity or use two strategies of efficient contraception concurrently, have a adverse being pregnant take a look at earlier than beginning Accutane, and wait till the second or third day of their subsequent menstrual interval earlier than starting to take Accutane. The PPP additionally asks girls of childbearing age being handled with Accutane to voluntarily enroll within the Boston College Accutane Survey (BUAS).[8]Though Accutane is contraindicated in being pregnant, and its bundle explicitly warns customers to keep away from being pregnant whereas taking the product, uncovered pregnancies proceed to happen. Roughly 85 instances of congenital anomalies after publicity to Accutane have been reported to the FDA since 1989. Sixty of those experiences have at the least one of many options of retinoid embryopathy.[9]

Accutane is thought to be a really harsh drug with a protracted listing of unintended effects together with pink eye, chronically dry and delicate pores and skin, chapped lips, nosebleeds and joint ache, and presumably chest ache, melancholy, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, rashes and pores and skin infections and decreased evening imaginative and prescient.[10] Along with the medical unintended effects, girls who needed to take accutane now additionally needed to take contraception, month-to-month being pregnant assessments and drive backwards and forwards to resume prescriptions. Alternatively, a waiver was out there that stated you weren’t sexually lively and wouldn’t turn out to be pregnant.

Sloan Survey[edit]

Together with the PPP, the FDA carried out what was referred to as the Sloan Survey, a voluntary program that surveyed girls handled with accutane since 1989, totalling about 35% of the full feminine customers.[11] The research sought to find out how efficient the PPP was and what the continued threat was amongst girls of childbearing age.

Between 1992 and 1999 the variety of girls taking accutane went up 200%, and 80% of its customers had been between 15 and 30 years outdated, the age group thought of by the FDA to be the prime little one bearing inhabitants. Outcomes of the Sloan Survey found main problems with non-compliance though 40% of feminine customers within the excessive threat age group had been sexually lively. Between 1982 and 2000 there have been 1,995 uncovered pregnancies of which solely solely 383 had been carried to full time period and 42% of these infants with out there medical information had been born with main malformations. 1,446 of those pregnancies had been terminated both electively or spontaneously and the end result of the remaining 166 is unknown.[12]

The FDA concluded that pregnancies are nonetheless occurring, there may be substantial non-compliance with laws, and that the survey solely captured about 40% of all customers and does unlikely signify the precise variety of issues.

To get out of the strict {qualifications}, together with added prices, further medication and inconvenient logistics, girls can signal a waiver that claims they aren’t sexually lively and won’t turn out to be pregnant. It appears that evidently this a sign that the FDA is extra involved with legal responsibility than really stopping beginning defects.

The being pregnant classification X underneath which Accutane was first launched and continues to be distributed stipulates that it can’t be prescribed to pregnant girls as a result of the dangers outweigh the advantages. This stipulation ought to in all probability be expanded to incorporate girls who would possibly get pregnant as a result of they’re at simply as a lot a threat of passing on defects to their potential unborn youngsters.

Accutane is a really costly drug that may be very enticing to a big portion of the inhabitants who can afford it. This may very well be a think about its continued distribution. Those that have cash are prepared to pay for it to deal with their pimples and appear to be prepared to take the dangers of both signing the waiver or giving beginning to a toddler with beginning defects.


  2. Baker, L. (2003). Girls in medication: An encyclopaedia. Reference Critiques, 17(6), 55.
  4. Kuehn, B. B. M. (2010). Frances kelsey honored for FDA legacy: Award notes her work on thalidomide, medical trials. JAMA : The Journal of the American Medical Affiliation, 304(19), 2109-2112.
  6. Lammer EJ, Chen DT, Hoar RM, Agnish ND, Benke PJ, Braun JT, Curry CJ, Fernhoff PM, Grix AW, Lott IT, Richard JM, Solar SC. 1985. Retinoic acid embryopathy. N Engl J Med 313:837–841.
  8. Mitchell AA, Van Bennekom CM, Louik C. 1995. A pregnancy-prevention program in girls of childbearing age receiving isotretinoin. N Engl J Med 333:101–106.
  9. (A. Vega, FDA Heart for Drug Analysis and Analysis, private communication, August 2000).
  10. http://www.accutanesideeffects.web/
  12. Breaking out: a lady’s information to dealing with pimples at any age By Lydia Preston, Dr. Tina Alster
  1. ^ (2008, Could 10). Dr. Frances Kathleen Oldham Kelsey. Retrieved from from
  2. ^ (2008, Could 10). Dr. Frances Kathleen Oldham Kelsey. Retrieved from from
  3. ^ Gina, Petrocell (2002). From Accutane: Put up-Approval Drug Regulation in a Threat Administration Framework. Retrieved from
  4. ^ Kristina, Lutz (1962). From Tragedy to Triumph: The Approval of Thalidomide. Retrieved from
  5. ^ Gina, Petrocell (2002). From Accutane: Put up-Approval Drug Regulation in a Threat Administration Framework. Retrieved from
  6. ^ Vega, A. (August, 2000). FDA Heart for Drug Analysis and Analysis, private communication.
  7. ^ Gina, Petrocell (2002). From Accutane: Put up-Approval Drug Regulation in a Threat Administration Framework. Retrieved from
  8. ^ (2010, Could 10). Retrieved from


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