Heather Libby

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The very real story of how one woman prevented a national tragedy by doing her job.

Frances Oldham Kelsey believed thorough research saves lives. She was so right.

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Seventh Generation

This story originally appeared on 05.20.16


Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey had only been with the Food and Drug Administration for about a month when she was tasked with reviewing a drug named thalidomide for distribution in America.

Marketed as a sedative for pregnant women, thalidomide was already available in Canada, Germany, and several African countries. It could have been a very simple approval. But for Kelsey, something didn't sit right. There were no tests showing thalidomide was safe for human use, particularly during pregnancy.

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