Contraceptive gel could replace birth control pill
Source: Telegraph — Rubbing a small amount of the clear gel into the arms, legs, shoulders of abdomen every day delivers a dose of hormones prevents pregnancy, it is claimed.
Researchers say it could be an attractive alternative to the combined Pill, but without the common side-effects of nausea and weight gain.
It is also suitable for those who are breastfeeding, unlike the Pill which has hormone levels that frequently interfere with milk supply.
The gel works in the same way as the contraceptive skin patch.
This small beige plaster provides a steady stream of progesterone and oestrogen through the skin, which stop the ovaries releasing an egg each month.
However, the gel eliminates two of the biggest disadvantages of the transdermal patch – that it is visible, and can fall off.
Experts hope to bring the gel to market if clinical trial results continue to be positive.
Dr Ruth Merkatz, director of clinical development of reproductive health at the not-for-profit Population Council research centre in New York, led the latest study on the gel, which involved 18 women in their 20s to 30s.
Over seven months, none fell pregnant and the gel had “very high acceptability”, she said.
The research found the optimum dose was just 3mg a day.
“They only need to use a small quantity, once a day,” Dr Merkatz said. “From this small study we found it was effective.”
Dr Merkatz, who is presenting the findings at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), said the gel could enhance the choices women have.
She added: “It is really helpful to have different ways of administering contraception.”
The key drug in the gel is Nestorone, a new type of synthetic progesterone close to the natural hormone.
It also contains a type of oestrogen that is chemically identical to that produced by a woman’s body.
Dr Merkatz said Nestorone none of the women appeared to experience any of the negative side-effects seen in oral contraceptives, such as weight gain and nausea.
“This could be a reason why women might choose it,” she said.
“Itâ€™s in early stage development but if we move on, we will obviously test it in many, many more women.â€
Natika Halil, director of information at the Family Planning Association (FPA), said: “Any contraceptive system that increases the choice of methods available to women and helps to prevent unwanted pregnancies is welcome.
“Our research shows that there are approximately two million women using a contraceptive method that they are unhappy with, so they will benefit from improved choices and options.
“This product wonâ€™t suit everyone and will only be for women comfortable putting it on their skin and having their contraceptive cover that way.â€
Simon Blake, chief executive of sexual health charity Brook, said: “Obviously this is still in the very early stages of development but anything that can help young women has got to be a good thing.
“Clearly what young women need is more choice.”
The drug is being developed with Antares Pharma drug firm.
More than three million women in the UK use the Pill, making it the most popular form of contraception among women.