An important piece of FDA history, the birth control pill, was discussed in The Science Section of the New York Times in an excellent article by Gardiner Harris. The 50th anniversary of the little pill’s approval is this month and it revolutionized more than family planning. In the words of Harris: “The pill eventually led the FDA to communicate directly with patients without going through doctors.” This was not appreciated by physicians’ groups at the time, including AMA. The little pill’s impact on FDA was overshadowed by the Thalidomide tragedy which occurred shortly after.
The pill led to FDA using panels of expert to review the safety of drug products, which is now commonplace. FDA now has numerous advisory committees for a number of therapeutic areas- and it is doing a better job of preventing conflicts of interest in their membership. It also led to epidemiological investigations that “would become the model for the future,” according to Harris. The 1960s were an important era for FDA with Thalidomide, the birth controll pill and, of course, the Kefauver-Harris Amendments that led to the modern era of clinical trials. We seldom get well-written articles that cover FDA history that can be read in a short matter of 5-10 minutes. Highly recommended reading.
The Pill That Started More Than One Revolution, by Gardiner Harris, The New York Times
Update: On 6 May FDA approved a new oral contraceptive, Natazia, a combination hormonal tablet. The FDA News Release tells the story.
Another Update: NY Times columnist Gail Collins weighs in wickedly on the topc with What Every Girl Should Know
And still another Update: Now you too can contribute to FDA history by suggesting an acronym to the Agency. I kid you not. FDA has a link where you can suggest a new acronym or abbreviation for the Agency’s use.