They are self-enforcing, inexpensive, long-lasting – and may be the future of contraception.
By Maria Clara Rossini
Nov 14, 2019, 6:25 pm
Finding the perfect birth control is as impossible as finding a perfect person. Side effects, high prices, and discomfort are just some of the drawbacks that affect women who choose to use them. Now a new model comes into play to compete in the market: the microneedle patch.
He is basically a band aid with small thorns. The woman sticks the sticker on her skin and leaves it there for a minute. This is the time required for the mini needles to separate from the adhesive and penetrate the skin. They carry the hormones that are released throughout the month, and then the person only needs to re-stick the sticker the following month.
The contraceptive is being developed by the Georgia Institute of Technology and for University of Michigan, in the United States. For now it is just a prototype, but it seems that it will be an alternative in the future. Each patch contains 100 biodegradable microneedles and is not painful. Researchers estimate that it can be mass-produced by only one dollar each.
Micro needles are already used by the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry. They make insulin applications less painful and are used in treatments to minimize acne and some wrinkles.
For those who forget to take the birth control pill at the same time every day, long term contraceptives are a relief. In animal testing, adhesive protection lasted more than a month after a single application.
The released hormone is levonorgestrel, the same as the hormone intrauterine device (IUD). The big difference is in the way the drug is received. Unlike needles, the IUD is inserted into the womb through a very uncomfortable procedure.
There are already contraceptive adhesive models that are changed once a month, such as Evra, the only brand marketed in Brazil. The drawback is that the user has to stick to the skin for three weeks. In the meantime, the patch may partially or fully peel off, scratch and irritate the skin.
The researchers conducted a test using placebos stickers on women from india and nigeria. The patch and needles were the same as the prototype, except without the hormones. Only 10% of women said the application hurt a little, but none reported pain after an hour.
The drug patch has not yet been tested on humans. The researchers plan to increase the concentration of hormones in the needles so that the patch is applied once every six months rather than monthly.
There are already dozens of different contraceptive methods that can be used, but all have defects and depend on each woman's body. The main problem, however, is in underdeveloped countries where the population does not have access to these resources. According to research published in The lancet In 2018, 44% of pregnancies between 2010 and 2014 worldwide were unplanned.
Scientists hope patches can be used in underdeveloped countries where access to health and contraception is more restricted. But it will still take a while for him to hit the market. The first clinical trials are scheduled to take place in two to three years, and a series of tests begin to ensure the device's effectiveness and safety before it hits women's skin.