Frances Kelsey, Cana­dian doc­tor who railed against thalido­mide, dies aged 101

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Frances Kelsey, a Cana­dian doc­tor known for her tenac­ity in keep­ing a dan­ger­ous drug given to preg­nant women off the U.S. mar­ket, has died at age 101.

She died Fri­day morn­ing, less than 24 hours af­ter re­ceiv­ing the Or­der of Canada in a pri­vate cer­e­mony at her daugh­ter’s home in Lon­don, On­tario.

Kelsey was a med­i­cal of­fi­cer for the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion in the early 1960s when she raised con­cerns about thalido­mide, a drug that was be­ing used in other coun­tries to treat morn­ing sick­ness and in­som­nia in preg­nant women.

De­spite pres­sure from the mak­ers of thalido­mide to ap­prove the drug, she re­fused, and as a re­sult, thou­sands of chil­dren were saved from crip­pling birth de­fects.

Af­ter the seda­tive was pre­scribed be­gin­ning in 1950, thou­sands of chil­dren whose moth­ers took the drug were born with ab­nor­mally short limbs and in some cases with­out any arms, legs or hips. The birth de­fects were re­ported in Europe, Aus­tralia, Canada and Ja­pan.

On Thurs­day, Kelsey re­ceived the in­signia of Mem­ber of the Or­der of Canada to Kelsey.

Kelsey’s daugh­ter, Chris­tine Kelsey, said the cer­e­mony had orig­i­nally been sched­uled for Septem­ber but was held ear­lier be­cause her mother’s health was de­te­ri­o­rat­ing.

Thalido­mide law­suits have been filed across the world over the years.

In 2010, the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment of­fi­cially apol­o­gized to peo­ple hurt by the drug, af­ter ear­lier agree­ing to pay £20 mil­lion (US$31 mil­lion) to Thalido­mide’s vic­tims. In 2013, a class ac­tion suit by Aus­tralian and New Zealand vic­tims of Thalido­mide against the drug’s Bri­tish dis­trib­u­tor Di­a­geo Scot­land Ltd. was set­tled for CA$89 mil­lion (US$81 mil­lion).

Some vic­tims have won com­pen­sa­tion cases against drug pro­ducer Grue­nen­thal Group’s dis­trib­u­tors, but the Ger­man com­pany has long re­fused to agree to set­tle­ments. It of­fi­cially apol­o­gized to vic­tims in 2012.

The drug is now be­ing re­searched as a pos­si­ble treat­ment for cer­tain kinds of can­cer.


This Oct. 16, 1962, file photo shows Dr. Frances O. Kelsey, of the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion, ex­am­in­ing scales in Washington, D.C.

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