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Dr. Kelsey of FDA, Who Refused to Authorize Thalidomide Sale in U.S., to Receive Award

Aug. 4, 1962 - Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey (pictured before a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday) was authorized today to receive the highest award for Federal civilian service. President Kennedy granted the honor to the physician who kept the drug Thalidomide off the American market. The White House announced that the medical officer of the FDA would join those already scheduled to receive the award from the President in Washington Tuesday. The award — a gold medal and a citation — is the President’s Award for Distinguished Service, created in 1957. So far, only one woman has received it — Dr. Hazel K. Stiebeling of the Department of Agriculture, who won the award in 1959 for her work in nutrition. The decision to add Dr. Kelsey’s name to the list reflected the nation’s gratitude to the 48-year-old physician and pharmacologist who led a 2-year battle with the makers of Thalidomide who had wanted to put it on the American prescription market. The White House said Dr. Kelsey’s action in resisting pressure for approval had “prevented a major tragedy of birth deformities in the U.S.”


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