Oldham Kelsey

24 Jul 1914
7 Aug 2015
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Frances Oldham Kelsey, the Canadian doctor who played a central role in preventing the drug thalidomide being distributed in the US, died in London, Ontario on 7 August 2015. She was 101.

Kelsey, born on Vancouver Island, while working for the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) refused to approve thalidomide for market in the 1960s. She refused to approve the drug because she had concerns about the drug’s safety.

Later, it was found that thalidomide – prescribed to pregnant women to ease morning sickness – was causing thousands of babies to be born with missing limbs or organs and many died. She was lauded by citizens’ groups and was awarded honorary degrees.

Dr Kelsey – who worked at the US drug agency – is seen as a hero by many across the US for raising concerns about the safety of thalidomide, which is also known as Kevadon.

President John F Kennedy gave her the award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service. She was appointed to the Order of Canada in July 2015.

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