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Primary Sources: Correspondence between Pincus and Searle

Three letters reveal the relationship between Gregory Pincus and the Searle pharmaceutical company.

Pincus wrote the first, a handwritten note in which he stated that Searle saw his work as a "lamentable failure," after Searle turned down his request to fund Pill research, and before Katharine McCormick came to the Worcester Foundation with her checkbook. The second letter shows Searle's wariness in being associated with the Pill. The third, dated almost 15 months later, illustrates the company's eagerness to secure FDA approval, once the release of the Pill as a treatment for menstrual disorders has proven an unqualified success.

Dr. A. L. Raymond
587 Briar Lane

The Stevens Chicago
A Hilton Hotel

Mon P.M.

Dear Al,
Since sleep escapes me I will try to set down what I think is a fair summary of what you said to-nite as we were driving around. You said: "You haven't given us a thing to justify the half-million that we invested in you (except Alidase, which is a minor item), and the responsibility for this failure is yours. I have cooperated in every way possible, but you have given me data on animals which Winter doesn't trust, and have suggested clinical experimenters who have either proven that your particular pet compounds have no clinical utility or who have wasted time and money. I think that the "profile" study of compounds in patients is probably another such futile waste of money, but I have, because of your wish for it, acquiesced in it. There is, to be fair, still some chance that we may find a utility for the lactones and that the perfusion process will prove useful. But to date your record as a contributor to the commerce of the Searle Company is a lamentable failure, replete with false leads, poor judgment, and assurances from you that were false. Yet you have the nerve to ask for more for research. You will get more only if a lucky chance gives us something originating from your group which will make us a profit. If I had unlimited finds I would undertake a large program in the steroid field, but I do not have such finds and the record to date does not justify a large program."

Taking this as it stands, and attempting to assess it, I feel that the moral is plain. There should be, from a business point of view, no need for further support of a person with such a record. The chances of an eventual recoupment from our few discoveries depend upon factors which are out of my hands. You have the lactones and by adequate clinical trial can ascertain if they in fact have any utility. The mechanics of the perfusion process are yours and you may proceed to the production of materials and their clinical trial. If you wish even to follow the few leads we have presented for synthetic work you have all our ideas and could have adequate personnel for their working out.

I want you to know that I have indeed been embarrassed at the failure to see a paying result. I have done what I could, but it is obviously in your view no good. My attempts have led me into a situation which is rather difficult. First of all my earnings have barely kept pace with the increase in cost of living. I have refused other possibilities in the hope that I might repay the Searle Co. by hard and diligent work. But now at a time when I am just about at the peak of productive activity I see my wife buying $6.95 dresses the way she did when we were first married; she does her own housework despite the fact that she is no younger. And if I were to die I would leave my family not too well provided for. If I were permitted to resign I think I could obtain several consultantships which would aggregate enough to ameliorate this situation.

Furthermore, I have made myself responsible for the employment of a group of workers under your grant. I believe that I could place them elsewhere at this time when the demand for workers in the steroid field is large. I do not think that I can go on with them much longer at the present pay rates -- only a loyalty to me and a love of their work has kept them so far.

You realize that this is an attempt to be impersonal, and I need scarcely say that my feeling for you personally is as steadfast and warm as is possible for me. Indeed it is because I feel that you are personally subjected to pressures on my account that I would like to see them withdrawn. I am troubled as to how to do so to your satisfaction. I need your honest counsel, and when I see you again, I'd like very much to have it.


Source: Pincus Papers, Container 4, Library of Congress, Manuscripts Division

G.D. Searle & Co.
"Research in the Service of Medicine"
P. O. Box 5110
Chicago 80, Illinois, U.S.A.

Dr. Gregory Pincus
The Worcester Foundation
222 Maple Avenue
Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

October 4, 1957

Dear Gregory:
Yesterday I discussed with Mr. Searle, the question of publication of the Puerto Rican results. He appears to agree that publication would be desirable, but he would like to avoid our being associated, even by implication. Whom had you considered as possible authors, and what sort of reference would you propose as to Searle's participation?

As a separate subject, our Conessine project has bogged down because we can't get any Conessine. It seems to me that you worked out an arrangement with someone in Europe for supplies, and I wonder if you could spare 10-20 grams of the alkaloid for our preliminary experiments on the program which was agreed upon.

Best regards.

Cordially yours,
(Albert L. Raymond)

"Ethical Pharmaceuticals Since 1888 - Branches - New York - Kansas City - San Francisco"

Source: Pincus Papers, Container 109, Library of Congress, Manuscripts Division

"Research in the Service of Medicine"

G. D. Searle & Co.
P. O. Box 5110
Chicago 80, Illinois, U.S.A.

December 29, 1958

Dr. Gregory Pincus
Worcester Foundation
Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

Dear Goody:
I have several things to write to you about besides wishing you a Very Happy New Year, but because of the imminence of that new year, I am going to confine my remarks to just one subject.

It is no news, I am sure, that the powers that be are breathing down our neck in the hopes of speeding up our application to the Food and Drug Administration on the contraceptive utility of Enovid. To make that application, we of course need Rock and Garcia's complete report on their findings on their recent follow-up trip and Rock's report on the histology of not only the endometra but the ovaries which he has. In addition we need the case reports from Paniagua, and hopefully from Haiti, although the latter aren't absolutely essential. In addition, Dr. Satterthwaite was to send us a case summary of each of the people in her program.

To date none of this has arrived, and we can't make our application until we have it. We have written to Paniagua and Satterthwaite, but so far haven't received any reply.

At the moment, we are stymied and, as indicated above, the pressure is rising!

Believe me, I appreciate the pressures which are on you too, but any assistance would be very gratefully received.

With best regards, and our best to Lizzie too.

Irwin C. Winter, Ph.D., M.D.
Director of Clinical Research
G.D. Searle

Source: Pincus Papers, Container 110, Library of Congress, Manuscripts Division

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