Thalidomide – Why Optical Isomers are Important

Optical isomerism is hugely important in organic chemistry, especially in the drug industry.

Here’s an insight into just HOW important it actually is.

The Thalidomide story is a hugely tragic one, and one that the scientific / pharmaceutical community is keen to learn from and prevent from happening in the future.

Thalidomide was developed as an anti-emetic (anti-sickness drug). Specifically it was designed to prevent morning sickness associated with pregnancy.

Unfortunately, however, the drug company that developed it did not foresee the fact that the drug would be changed in the body to create a very toxic enantiomer or optical isomer.

Optical isomerism is a huge factor to consider when developing new drugs. One can work, the other can be deadly.

KEY POINTS: A level Chemistry + Optical Isomerism + Chiral Centre + Enantiomers + Polarimetry

EXAM BOARDS: AQA, OCR, EDEXCEL