Carl Djerassi, who led a team at the Syntex chemical firm that produced the first oral contraceptive in the early Fifties, told the meeting that the international pharmaceutical industry had 'washed its hands of the whole field'.
'All the big companies here are doing nothing in the field and the reasons are the obvious ones. We live in a predominantly geriatric society and the emphasis is on geriatric problems not paediatric ones.
'I am absolutely convinced there will be no new method of contraception this century. There is interest scientifically but this will get nowhere without the intervention of pharmaceutical companies. What we really need in an ideal society is a contraceptive supermarket from which people can pick and choose . . . But there are very important missing components.'
He described a 'wish list' of methods he would like to see, including a spermicide with anti-viral properties; a once-a-month menses inducer that women would take just before they expected their period in months when they were sexually active; reversible male sterilisation; a male contraceptive pill; an anti-fertility vaccine and a reliable ovulation predictor.
But he said that accomplishing these aims even by 2010 'would take political and social changes for which I see little evidence'.
He saw a glimmer of hope for ovulation prediction. He envisaged a test using samples of urine or saliva to check for ovulation. This would allow women to avoid sexual intercourse in the days when they were most likely to conceive.