Thalidomide (By mouth)


Thalidomide (tha-LID-oh-mide)

Treats and prevents erythema nodosum leprosum, a skin disease caused by leprosy. Used in combination with dexamethasone to treat multiple myeloma.

Brand Name(s)


There may be other brand names for this medicine.

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used

This medicine can cause serious or life-threatening birth defects in unborn babies. Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Do not use this medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to thalidomide.

How to Use This Medicine


  • Your doctor will tell you how much of this medicine to use and how often. Do not use more medicine or use it more often than your doctor tells you to.
  • Take this medicine with water, preferably at bedtime, and at least 1 hour after the evening meal.
  • Do not open the blister pack until you are ready to take the capsule. If you touch a broken capsule or the medicine in the capsule, wash your skin with soap and water right away.
  • This medicine should come with a Medication Guide. Read and follow these instructions carefully. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions. Ask your pharmacist for the Medication Guide if you do not have one.

If a dose is missed:

  • If you miss a dose or forget to use your medicine, use it as soon as you can. If you missed your dose more than 12 hours ago, then skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the regular time. Do not use extra medicine to make up for a missed dose.

How to Store and Dispose of This Medicine

  • Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light.
  • Return any unused capsules to your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Keep all medicine away from children and never share your medicine with anyone.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Make sure your doctor knows about ALL other medicines you use. This is especially important if you take birth control pills. Some medicines can cause birth control pills not to work as well to prevent pregnancy.
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you also use amiodarone (Cordarone®), bortezomib (Velcade®), cimetidine (Tagamet®), cisplatin (Platinol®), digoxin (Lanoxin®), disulfiram (Antabuse®), docetaxel (Taxotere®), famotidine (Pepcid®), lithium (Lithobid®), metronidazole (Flagyl®), paclitaxel (Abraxane®), phenytoin (Dilantin®), succinylcholine (Anectine®), vincristine (Oncovin®), blood pressure medicines (such as amlodipine, atenolol, diltiazem, doxazosin, metoprolol, propranolol, terazosin, verapamil, Bystolic®, Caduet®, Lotrel®, Tenormin®), or medicine to treat depression (such as amitriptyline, nortriptyline, Elavil®).
  • Tell your doctor if you also use carbamazepine (Tegretol®), griseofulvin (Grifulvin V®), modafinil (Provigil®), penicillin antibiotics, rifabutin (Mycobutin®), rifampin (Rifadin®), St. John's wort, or medicine to treat HIV infection (such as atazanavir, lopinavir, ritonavir, Crixivan®, Kaletra®, Lexiva®, Norvir®, Prezista®, Reyataz®).
  • Tell your doctor if you are using any medicines that make you sleepy. These include sleeping pills, cold and allergy medicine, narcotic pain relievers, and sedatives.
  • Do not drink alcohol while you are using this medicine.

Warnings While Using This Medicine

  • Using this medicine while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. The medicine may also cause birth defects if the father is using it when his sexual partner becomes pregnant. If a pregnancy occurs while you are using this medicine, tell your doctor right away.
  • Use two forms of effective birth control together to avoid pregnancy. Begin using birth control 4 weeks before you start therapy. Continue the birth control during therapy, even if the dose is stopped for a short time, and for at least 4 weeks after your last dose. Talk to your doctor about the most effective forms of birth control for you and your partner.
  • Men who are sexually active must protect their female partner from getting pregnant. Use a latex or synthetic condom every time you have sex with a woman who could get pregnant, even if you have had a vasectomy. You must use a condom during therapy, even if the dose is stopped for a short time, and for at least 4 weeks after your last dose.
  • Women who can get pregnant must have a negative pregnancy test before starting therapy. Pregnancy tests may be done weekly for the first month during therapy, and then every 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Do not donate blood or sperm while you take this medicine and for at least 4 weeks after your last dose.
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you are breastfeeding, have a history of seizures, or have blood clotting problems, a slow heartbeat, nerve problems, or HIV infection.
  • This medicine may increase your risk for blood clots or serious skin disorders. Tell your doctor right away if you have trouble breathing, chest pain, arm or leg swelling, or any new skin rash.
  • This medicine may cause nerve damage. Call your doctor if you have any numbness, tingling, burning, or pain in the hands or feet.
  • Never share this medicine with anyone, even someone who has similar symptoms.
  • This medicine may cause you to feel dizzy, drowsy, or lightheaded. Do not drive, use machines, or do anything else that could be dangerous until you know how this medicine affects you. Stand or sit up slowly if you feel lightheaded.
  • This medicine may lower your white blood cells and you may get infections more easily. Avoid people who are sick and wash your hands often.
  • This medicine may cause tumor lysis syndrome in patients with multiple myeloma. Call your doctor if you have less urine than normal, joint pain or swelling, lower back or side pain, weight gain, swelling of the feet or lower legs, or feel tired.
  • Your doctor will need to check your blood at regular visits while you are using this medicine. Be sure to keep all appointments.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Blistering, peeling, red skin rash
  • Change in how much or how often you urinate
  • Chest pain, trouble breathing, coughing up blood
  • Fever, chills, cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and body aches
  • Late or missed menstrual period
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, drowsiness, fainting
  • Pain in your lower leg (calf), numbness or weakness in your arm or leg, or on one side of your body
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning pain in your hands, arms, legs, or feet
  • Seizures or tremors
  • Slow, uneven, or fast, pounding heartbeat
  • Sudden or severe headache, problems with vision, speech, or walking
  • Swelling in your face, hands, ankles, or feet

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Anxiety, agitation, confusion
  • Headache
  • Impotence
  • Loss of appetite or weight changes
  • Mild skin rash or dry skin
  • Tiredness

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Version Info

  • Last Reviewed on 06/12/2013

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This page was last updated: June 18, 2013

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