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Benagiano G, Merialdi M  
Carl Djerassi and the World Health Organisation Special Programme of Research in Human Reproduction

Journal für Reproduktionsmedizin und Endokrinologie - Journal of Reproductive Medicine and Endocrinology 2011; 8 (Sonderheft 1): 10-13

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Keywords: WHOhuman reproduction

Many hormonal contraceptives appropriate for use in Developing countries are not of interest to major Western, international pharmaceutical companies. For this reason, in the mid-seventies the World Health Organisation, in response to great demand for improved long-acting injectable hormonal contraceptives, particularly in Africa and Asia, sponsored a chemical synthesis programme of long-acting progestational and androgenic steroids with Carl Djerassi as one of its main leaders. Almost 300 esters of norethisterone, levonorgestrel and testosterone were prepared by this programme in university-based research laboratories situated mainly in developing countries and then screened by the US National Institutes of Health in animal models. This paper describes the overall strategy of this research and development activity and the philosophy that served as an engine for a unique non-profit collaborative work. Among progestins three compounds, levonorgestrel-butanoate, cyclopropylcarboxylate and cyclobutyl-carboxylate, proved to be particularly long-acting when administered as microcrystalline suspensions, although – for financial reasons – only one, levonorgestrel-butanoate is being further developed.
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