Book published in October, 1997

A Consumer's Guide to The Pill and Other Drugs

John Wilks, B.Pharm. M.P.S.

In the past 30 years, hormonal drugs of various types have become common place in the lives of women, from the time of their first menstruation to well into the menopause. There are drugs to suppress or stimulate fertility, drugs to suppress or replicate the effects of a monthly period and drugs to end or maintain a pregnancy. In fact, there is a drug to match almost all the variables in women's health.

Accompanying this variety is an enormous volume of consumption, with the oral 'contraceptive' alone accounting for over 3.9 million scripts per annum in Australia. Yet it has been my experience for fifteen years as a community pharmacist that the average woman knows very little about these drugs and the long-term effects they will have. This book has been written to help the average woman get the answers she needs to these important questions.

Of particular concern with many of these drugs is the substantial body of research which leads to the conclusion that they are associated with a variety of illnesses in women, most notably breast cancer.

There are two methods which I have used in arranging the order of the chapters in this book.

First, I have sought to follow a woman's reproductive and sexual life as closely as possible. The first nine chapters discuss drugs or devices which are used by women during their reproductive years: the pill, Depo-Provera, Norplant, barrier contraceptives, chemical abortifacients and fertility drugs. Chapter Ten deals with hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Second, I have grouped topics according to similarity of drug use and drug design. It is easier to read material on drugs with a common modus operandi than it is to move from one frug delivery system to another because of some lesser similarities such as side-effects or mortality rate. Accordingly, the pill, Norplant, and Depo-Provera are discussed in separate chapters. Whilst they all contain a synthetic version of progesterone, the drug is administered to the patient via different drug delivery systems which have different developmental histories. The pill receives four chapters because of the vast amount of medical literature related to this drug treatment, the on-going controversy surrounding it and the sheer number of women who daily ingest it.

Barrier methods of contraception such as spermicides and condoms are grouped together for obvious reasons. Post-coital 'contraceptives' such as RU-486 and methotrexate are grouped together because they are all chemical abortifacients and they are used post-intercourse. HRT and fertility drugs are dealt with individually, since they are neither 'contraceptive' nor abortifacient.

The final chapter, Chapter Eleven, presents examples of how material in the preceding ten chapters is criticized without foundation, and minimized or ignored to varying degrees by government health agencies, pharmaceutical manufacturers and the media so as to present a particular drug or device in a way which falsifies or ignores published research. Here lies the source of much community ignorance of these drugs and the reason for this book.

(taken from Preface by author)

This edition of the book was published in America in October, 1997, by ALL Inc., Stafford, Virginia, 22555.