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Advances in Steroid Biochemistry and Pharmacology. 1979; 7:1-8.Due to the numerous adverse side effects of steroidal contraceptives which continuously arise and result in potential decreases in the benefit-to-risk ratio, new chemical and biologic strategies need to be designed and implemented to assure continued success in the contraceptive area. Novel contraceptive stragegies include both new chemical classes and their receptive biologic targets. 4 basic pharmacologic approaches subserve female contraception: inhibition of ovulation; inhibition of fertilization; inhibition of implantation; and interruption of established implantation. Many diverse compounds have been evaluated in regard to a male contraceptive, but problems of toxicity and loss of libido have made the search difficult. The problem is further complicated by the task of trying to eliminate the hundreds of millions of sperm that are constantly being produced and which are in different stages of the spermatogenic cycle. This task calls for chronic dosing and the accompanying problem of eventual liver involvement and hypertrophy of the secondary accessory sex organs. An interesting area supported by the World Health Organization is the identification of plants and the isolation of their active principles for fertility regulating purposes. The United States National Institute of Health supports 3 major and separate programs related to contraception: 1) synthesis and testing of anti-ovulatory agents; 2) synthesis and testing of male contraceptive agents; and 3) peptide antagonists of LH-RH (luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone) as ovulation inhibitors. The following categories represent areas of research that might prove fruitful: LH-RH agonists; LH-RH antagonists; non-natural synthetic products; inhibin; and plant extracts. These categories are reviewed.
Development Directions. 1979 Jul-Aug; 2(4):16.The executive board of WHO (World Health Organization) recently passed a resolution calling on countries 1) to promote the role of traditional practitioners in the health care systems of developing countries and 2) to allocate more financial support for the development of traditional medical systems. The board also urged the medical profession not to undervalue the traditional medical system. WHO recognizes that modern medical care is unavailable to the majority of the world's poor residents and that traditional birth attendants deliver 2/3 of the world's babies. To fulfill the primary health needs of all the world's inhabitants it will be necessary to utilize both the Western and the traditional medical system. In some countries, such as Sri Lanka, India, and China the traditional health system is legally recognized. WHO also advocates utilizing those medicinal plants and remedies used by traditional practitioners to effectively treat their patients. Example of some of these plants are 1) Ammi visnage, a Mediterranean plant, used to treat angina pectoris; 2) Cymbopogan proximus, an Egyptian plant, used to remove urinary tract stones; 3) the root of Combretum, used in Ghana to treat guinea-worm; 4) bitter leaf, a Nigerian plant which kills mouth bacteria; and 5) Desmodium adcendens, Thonningia sanguinea, and Deinbollia pinnata used in various combinations to treat bronchial asthma.
[Status of research in the field of developing modern methods of birth rate regulation (based on data of the WHO enlarged program of human reproduction in 1977)] o sostoianii nauchnykh issledovani: i v oblasti razrabotki sovremennykh metodov reguliatsii rozhdaemosti (po dannym rasshirenno: i programmy VOZ poreproduktsii cheloveka za 1977.
AKUSHERSTVO I GINEKOLOGIIA. 1979; 2:3-5.The problem of human reproduction, especially of birth rate regulation has received much attention in the last decade. The main goal of the enlarged program of research undertaken by WHO in 1977 is to find modern, safe, convenient, and effective methods of contraception which are helpful for family planning. The basic topics under study are oral contraceptives, hormonal medications with prolonged effectiveness, intrauterine contraception, intravaginal and intercervical contraception, contraceptives from plants, biochemical methods of determining ovulation and others. Promising methods under study are the immunological approach based on the search for vaccines with the ability to inhibit sperm locomotion, development of zygote or implantation of the ovum and new methods for male fertility contraception (e.g., intranasal introduction of steroids). Definite attention is paid to methods of surgical sterilization of men and women. Problems of the postabortion period and treatment of infertility are also under intensive investigation in many countries participating in the WHO enlarged program on human reproduction.
Development Forum. 1979 Aug-Sep; 7(6):5.Recognizing that three-fourths of the world's population is culturally tied to indigenous health care systems, WHO is attempting to emphasize traditional medicine under the division of Appropriate Technology for Health (ATH). A regularly published newsletter describes health technologies appropriate for developing areas. Additionally the Istituto Italo-Africano in Rome has become the first collaborating institution in WHO's traditional medicine program.
American Pharmacy. 1979 Sep; 19(10):23-4.Pharmaceutical scientists and botanists from all over the world met at the University of Illinois to map a 3-year program for collecting and testing plants which may be effective in regulating fertility. Launched in July, 1979, the project will continue through May, 1982. The study is sponsored by the World Health Organization. More than 100 pounds of each plant sample are needed for the pharmacological and phytochemical tests. 300 plant species will be studied, which represents only a fraction of the almost 4000 species for which fertility-regulating information has been gathered. In 1974 Americans paid about $3 billion for prescriptions of plant-extracted drugs. In the same year the pharmaceutical companies devoted only $200,000 of a $1 million research effort to the study of plant extracts. The plant data are being analyzed and stored with the help of a computer system developed at the Illinois College of Pharmacy. The Natural Products Alert (NAPRALERT) system considers whether or not a plant is poisonous or has adverse side effects. An estimated 5000 scientific periodicals are computerized per year. Some 4000 plants are listed, but another 4000 with fertility regulation potential are expected to be recorded. Some 750,000 species of flowering plants grow on earth.
WHO Chronicle 33:58-59. February 1979.6 centers have been designated to conduct research aimed at finding new and effective fertility regulating agents from plants. The centers are part of the WHO Special Program of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction. Information concerning about 3000 plants has already been computerized. The sources of this information are many and varied. Some of the reports are scientifically based. Some contain vague or hearsay evidence, and others use terminology which raises questions about the authors' awareness of some of the terms they used. Thus, currently, the amount of detail available regarding the administration of these plants for fertility regulation often provides an inadequate basis for assessing the possible mechanism of action. For the purposes of the WHO program, in which a Task Force has been established in this subject, only certain types of fertility regulating agents are being considered. Each is being assigned to a specific category, according to its use. The compuer is fed all the available weighted data concerning fertility regulation for each plant and for each category of fertility regulating agent. On this basis, the computer then provides a priority rank-ordered list of plants to assist in the selection of the most appropriate plants for experimental investigation by the 6 centers in the program. Each of the 6 centers will be assigned plants from the rank-ordered priority list, those indigenous to the country where the center is located being assigned there if possible. A few parallel studies will continue to be supported by WHO, based on the needs of the program and the merits of each study.
WHO Chronicle 33:56-57. February 1979.In May 1978 the 31st World Health Assembly urged the World Health Organization (WHO) to compile an inventory of medicinal plants with standardized botanical nomenclature of those most widely used and to compile and periodically update a therapeutic classification of the plants. WHO was also asked to review the available scientific data relating to the efficacy of medicinal plants and their products in the treatment of specific conditions and diseases and to make available the results of such reviews. In response, WHO has compiled an inventory of plants known to be used for therapeutic purposes thorughout the world. WHO will extract from the inventory a list of the plants which really do exert some pharmacological effect and which are most widely used. The initial list will consist of 228 plants. To draw up this preferential list of most used medicinal plants, a classification into 3 categories will be made: 1) plants that are used directly in therapy; 2) plants that constitute the raw mateiral for galenicals; and 3) plants that constitute the raw material for industrial processing and which are used either for the extraction and purification of their active principles or used as starting materials or intermediates for synthetic preparations. A code of specifications for vegetable drugs belonging to the 3 categories already classified in also planned. Much work needs to be done on medicinal plants used in traditional medicine and those whose reputed therapeutic properties have not yet been scientifically assessed.