Hong Kong leprosy victims try out thalidomide cure

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 September, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 September, 1997, 12:00am


Thalidomide, the drug which caused horrific deformities in more than 10,000 babies worldwide in the 1960s, is being used to treat local leprosy sufferers.

The drug, originally used to suppress morning sickness, was banned after it was found it could have a devastating effect on babies.

However, the head of the Government's Social Hygiene Service unit, Dr Lo Kuen-kong, said it was a 'relatively safe drug' for leprosy pain.

At present the drug is only used on male sufferers when other treatments have been exhausted, said Dr Lo.

Research in the US points to a 90 per cent success rate.

Doctors are now keen to extend the use of thalidomide to women sufferers and for treatment of other diseases.

President of the Hong Kong Society of Dermatology and Venereology, Dr Chong Lai-yin, said it could be used to help women who were not pregnant.

AIDS sufferers and patients who react to bone marrow transplants could also benefit.

Up to 20 new leprosy patients are seen each year, although last year the number fell to eight.