Food and Drug Administration

The diet drugs fenfluramine – “Fen-phen”

Popular name for a combination of the diet drugs fenfluramine and phentermine. Created by a French pharmaceutical company in the early 1970s, fenfluramine–which entered the American market in 1973–languished for a decade as an occasionally effective diet drug that commonly induced sleep in its users.

Fen-phen was born in the late 1980s when Dr. Michael Weintraub of the University of Rochester added a mild amphetamine-like substance called phentermine to fenfluramine (or Pondimin), thus eliminating the energy drag. In 1992, Weintraub and several colleagues published a study that showed fen-phen to be far more effective than dieting or exercise in reducing the weight of the chronically obese, and fen-phen was soon on the market.

Unlike an earlier generation of speed-laden diet drugs, fen-phen seemed to be without immediate side effects. Along with Redux (or dexfenfluramine, a more refined compound that boasts fewer side effects and, like fen-phen affects seratonin levels), fen-phen–which… Continue reading

Emergency contraception

After-the-fact birth control, consisting of a strong (2x or 4x) dose of conventional birth control pills. The method, when used with 72 hours of unprotected sex, is judged to be 75 percent effective in preventing pregnancy–low on the list behind in-advance methods such as condoms, diaphragms, the IUD, and standard birth control pills.

Although the procedure has been medically accepted since the late ’70s, in February 1997 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called on reticent drug makers to seek approval to market pills in America for “morning-after” use, largely to promote awareness of the less-known anti-pregnancy option. With a similar goal in October 1997, a number of family planning groups launched a toll free hotline (1-888-NOT-2-LATE) and a campaign of public service advertisements.

The Emergency Contraceptive Pill, or ECP, does not terminate pregnancy, it prevents it, by decreasing the likelihood that sperm will combine with the egg and… Continue reading