The Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI) in Lucknow discovered India's first contraceptive pill, 'Centchroman' or 'Saheli,' which marked a revolutionary advancement. This once-weekly, non-hormonal, non-steroidal oral contraceptive transformed family planning by giving women an easy-to-use approach to preventing unintended pregnancy. Dr. Nitya Anand developed 'Saheli', the world's first and only contraception of its kind, which provides women with unique birth control options.
Dr. Nitya Anand, former director of the Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), played a pivotal role in the creation of "Centchroman" or "Saheli". Involved with CDRI since its founding in 1951, he supervised 100 PhD students, authored over 400 research articles, and secured 130 patents. 'Saheli', was introduced by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. In 2016, it was added to India's National Family Programme, making it the world's first non-steroidal, non-hormonal contraception, demonstrating Dr. Anand's enormous influence on CDRI's scientific legacy.
'Saheli' emerged in the 1960s as a response to India's family planning demands. Dr. Nitya Anand and the CSIR-CDRI team in Lucknow created 'Centchroman' (Ormeloxifene) in 1971, introduced it in 1986, and included it in India's National Family Planning Programme in 2016. This once-weekly oral contraceptive had a quick and reversible contraceptive action that was appropriate for weekly use or immediate post-coital administration. Despite a short half-life in rats, "DL-Centchroman" had a long 168-hour serum half-life in females, indicating safety in nursing mothers and normal child development in method-and-user failure pregnancies. Reports suggested potential applications beyond contraception, with an excellent therapeutic index.
Saheli, India's revolutionary contraceptive pill, is still extremely popular decades after its launch. Until 1996, over 100,000 women, or about 1100,000 menstrual cycles, utilized Saheli. Its unique need-oriented contraceptive method, which allows for weekly or immediate post-coital usage, ensures exceptional efficacy and rapid reversibility. Saheli's reliability is supported by multicentric trials that reveal normal offspring development and a 120-hour anti-implantation/estrogen antagonistic activity.
Regrettably, Dr. Nitya Anand, the visionary behind 'Saheli,' passed away at 99 in SGPGIMS Lucknow. A recipient of the Padma Shree award, he left behind a significant and enduring legacy. He is survived by his sons Neeraj Nitya Anand and Dr. Naveen Nitya Anand, along with his daughter Dr. Sonia Nitya Anand, who serves as the vice-chancellor of King George's Medical University (KGMU), Dr. Nitya Anand's contributions endure.
In reflecting on her father's legacy, Dr. Sonia Nitya Anand highlighted his role in developing 'Saheli,' emphasizing its revolutionary impact on contraception. 'Saheli' is a source of great pride for India and Lucknow.