August 1, 1966


JAMA. 1966;197(5):363. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110050101026

Oral contraceptives became a clinical reality ten years ago. Although nine or more different chemicals are preventing pregnancy in American women today, 80% of the consumption is of compound "XV" or a close relative first synthesized in 1952 by Djerassi and colleagues, 19-nor-17α-ethynyltestosterone. This compound has proved to be an effective preventive of ovulation. In a recent historical survey of the chemical developments, Djerassi poses the question whether it is worthwhile to synthesize additional compounds as potential candidates for oral contraceptives.1

His answer is affirmative. Although problems of production adequate to meet possible demands once were formidable, these have been resolved by discovery of new methods of partial chemical synthesis more efficient than those first employed. Within the past year, discovery of a chemicalmicrobiological transformation of an intermediate directly to estrone by a soil microorganism offers a shorter and most efficient route to compound XV and others. However, even