History Department
Vancouver Island University
Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada

The Ticking Time Bomb: Diethylstilbestrol

1940s researchers claimed artificial hormones (e.g.diethylstilbestrol) combatted pregnancy’s ills, including morning sickness, diabetes and miscarriage, and they were widely prescribed. 1950s research disproved those claims, but exposed thousands of infants to congenital malformations. While child research then was avoided, the problem of ‘orphan drugs’ remained. FDA needed to balance risks of child drug research with reality of widespread use of medications on children without prior testing.

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