Birth of the “pill” has profound effect on women’s health

A new book, The Birth of the Pill, by Jonathan Eig tracks the involvement of four individuals who were key crusaders in the advent of readily available contraception that women controlled!   For readers who were not around for the sexual revolution of the late 1960s, here are some factoids that you might find interesting:

  • Four key players are featured in the book:  Margaret Sanger, feminist, and co-founder Planned parenthood;  Gregory Pincus, biologist who was fired by Harvard for his controversial research on in vitro fertilization and is considered the “inventor” of the Pill ;  John Rock, a Catholic,  ran clinical trials on the pill, and served as an intermediary with his Church; and Katherine McCormick, an heiress who funded the research on the pill.
  • Early on, due to Rock’s intervention, the Vatican almost supported the pill as a natural form of “rhythm”…but in the end did not!
  • One of the pre-FDA approval users of the pill was Sue Dixon whose father was Jack Searle the CEO of G.D. Searle and Company–the company that eventually marketed the pill.
  • Early clinical trials for the pill were conducted in Puerto Rico where, at the time, regulations for consent and other ethical issues was far less stringent than they are now.
  • Early versions of the pill were stronger than necessary because scientists wanted to be sure it was 100% effective.  Today, the dosages has been scaled down considerably reducing risks and adverse effects.
  • David Wagner, a product engineer at Illinois Tool Works, Inc.  designed a circular pill dispenser after his wife complained of forgetting to take the pill everyday.  His design was rejected by Searle but picked up by Ortho who was preparing to release their own version on the pill called “dialpak”.  This dispenser design helps distinguish the “pill” in a unique way that still exists today!
  • The pill was initially FDA approved as a treatment for menstrual disorders, giving its manufacturer a  “gentle” release into the market.