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CSIR’s Novel Contraceptive Drug-A Woman’s True Saheli

02 Dec 2016


Having baby brings tremendous responsibility on part of both parents right from the day of conception, through the next nine months and endlessly thereafter. Surely then, a couple must be mentally prepared to take up a challenge of parenting, and therefore, must avoid unplanned pregnancy.

The trauma of an unplanned pregnancy is sometimes so unbearable that the woman takes the extreme step of getting the baby aborted. This reflects an unmet need of millions of couples for family planning measure that does not take away the pleasure of the nuptial knot.

Coming to the rescue of hundreds of thousands of couples, CSIR developed the world’s first non-steroidal once –a-week oral contraceptive drug that gave women the freedom to decide about pregnancy. Rightly named, Saheli, this drug is indeed a true friend as it helps to avoid pregnancy without any side effects. A product of over two decades of research at the CSIR-Central Drugs Research Institute (CDRI), Lucknow, Saheli comprises a novel non-steroidal, biochemical namely, ‘centrochroman’. This drug is not only unique due to its composition and mode of action but it is also very convenient to take. The recommended dose is taken twice a week for the first three months, followed by once a week schedule. This drug was included in the National Family Welfare Programme in 1995.

The role of estrogen-progesterone balance in the development of fertilised ovum is well known. Concerted research efforts of CSIR scientists have shown that centchroman is bestowed with dual properties of being mildly estrogenic while being a potent anti- estrogenic agent.  With this unique blend of natural properties, centchroman is equipped to inhibit the fertilised ovum from implantation without disturbing the hormonal balance. Thanks to CSIR scientists, centchroman is a wonder anti-implantation agent approved for clinical use in the world.

Exhaustive studies, in thousands of women, evaluating the use of centchroman as a contraceptive have shown that this drug is quite safe. Unlike steroidal contraceptives, centchroman does not cause nausea, vomiting or dizziness and has no adverse effects on the woman’s lipid profile and platelet function. Moreover, the contraceptive effect of centchroman is reversible and a woman can experience normal pregnancy on stopping the drug. Besides its use as a contraceptive, this drug works as an effective treatment for dysfunctional uterine bleeding. To top it all, centchroman is bestowed with a unique property of being effective against breast cancer. Multi-centric trials have shown the efficacy of centchroman in treating breast cancer patients.

Centchroman has been licensed to two companies in India. It was first manufactured by Torrent Pharmaceuticals Ltd. Ahmedabad, and marketed as birth control under the trade name Centron that was later discontinued. Torrent Pharmaceuticals now manufactures ormeloxifene under the trade name Sevista, as a treatment for dysfunctional uterine bleeding.

(The write-up is a feature from Unit of Science Dissemination (USD), CSIR)

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