Posted by: Ayla Atalar1 FEB 2012
When my fiancésyounger sister asked me to help her with her science homework, I expected to beriddled with questions I had long ago forgot answers to. I did not expect anyquestions on drugs. How very wrong I was. To my surprise, I even ended uplearning something myself.
The question had thestatement ‘Read the information about the trialling of the first contraceptivepill’. As I read on, I discovered that a man by the name of Gregory Pincus leda team of scientists who developed the contraceptive pill and needed to carryout large-scale trials in humans. So here is a little history lesson…
Pincus visited PuertoRico in the summer of 1955. He decided that this would be the best place tocarry out the trials as it was one of the most densely populated areas in theworld and officials supported birth control in order to control the population.He thought that if he could teach the poor, uneducated women of Puerto Rico touse the pill in the correct regimen, then women all over the world would alsobe able to use it in the correct way. Pincus and his team selected a pill witha high dose of hormones to ensure there would not be any pregnancies while thetest subjects were taking the drug. The trial discovered that the pill was 100% successful when taken properly, with 17% of women experiencing side effects.However, Pincus decided to ignore the side effects (which would never happen inour days!). The women had also only been told that they were taking a drug thatprevented pregnancy, not that the pill was experimental or may have potentialside effects (this would also never happen now due to informed consentregulations). The main question was to then describe what was wrong with thistrial, and I could definitely see quite a few!
It just so happenedthat that week, UEA pharmacy students had to learn 100 drugs for a ‘top drugs’exam with one of the drugs being the combined contraceptive pill. Anotherquestion in this piece of homework, to my delight, was to explain how thecontraceptive pill worked. The answer? It prevents ovulation by suppressing therelease of gonadotropins and inhibits follicular development. Although I didnot give the answer away to my sister in law, I was pleased to see that she knewthe answer herself. It seems as though pharmacy is everywhere, including schoolhomework!