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Am J Public Health. 2012 Aug;102(8):1462-72. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300706. Epub 2012 Jun 14.

How the pill became a lifestyle drug: the pharmaceutical industry and birth control in the United States since 1960.

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Department of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0523, USA.


Marketing decisions, rather than scientific innovations, have guided the development and positioning of contraceptive products in recent years. I review the stalled progress in contraceptive development in the decades following the advent of the Pill in 1960 and then examine the fine-tuning of the market for oral contraceptives in the 1990s and 2000s. Although birth control has been pitched in the United States as an individual solution, rather than a public health strategy, the purpose of oral contraceptives was understood by manufacturers, physicians, and consumers to be the prevention of pregnancy, a basic health care need for women. Since 1990, the content of that message has changed, reflecting a shift in the drug industry's view of the contraception business. Two factors contributed to bring about this change: first, the industry's move away from research and development in birth control and second, the growth of the class of medications known as lifestyle drugs.

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