Scientists have come up with a new type of contraceptive that is long-acting and can be administered by women without the help of a medical expert.
The contraceptive patch, which injects contraceptive hormones to the body with dissolvable microneedles, have come out of early animal trials with positive results. Scientists hope the contraceptive patch will be able to provide a new, more convenient, and painless option for women, especially those who live in developing countries with no immediate access to health care centers.
Details about the contraceptive patch and the early animal trials were published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering on Jan. 14.
A New Way To Prevent Pregnancy
The contraceptive patch works by deploying microscopic needles that remain under the surface of the skin and slowly release levonorgestrel, the contraceptive hormone, over time. The user only needs to apply the contraceptive patch to the skin within five seconds.
According to scientists, early animal testing showed that a single application of the contraceptive patch provided a therapeutic level of levonorgestrel in mice for more than one month. However, the scientists noted that they only checked the level of contraception hormones in the blood, not whether it could prevent pregnancy.
"There is a lot of interest in providing more options for long-acting contraceptives," stated Mark Prausnitz from Georgia Institute of Technology and one of the authors of the paper. "Our goal is for women to be able to self-administer long-acting contraceptives with the microneedle patch that would be applied to the skin for five seconds just once a month."
The scientists revealed that the contraceptive patch is designed to be used in areas where there is limited access to health care. While long-active contraceptive options are currently available in the market, but they often have to be administered by a trained professional.
If successful, the contraceptive patch will be the first in the market to be self-administered and not deliver hormones via conventional needle injection.
"The microneedle patch delivery platform being developed by Mark Prausnitz and his colleagues for contraception is an exciting advancement in women's health," said Gregory S. Kopf, director of R&D Contraceptive Technology Innovation at FHI. "This self-administered long-acting contraceptive will afford women discreet and convenient control over their fertility, leading to a positive impact on public health by reducing both unwanted and unintended pregnancies."
The scientists added that they still do not know how it will perform in humans. They still need to perform more tests before it moves forward to clinical trials.