Media ReleaseFrom: AAAS
“Fizzy” Patch Delivers Long-Acting Birth Control Through Microneedles Under the Skin
Scientists have developed – and gathered human feedback on – a patch with a novel effervescent backing that separates from an array of microneedles after one minute, leaving the needles to slowly biodegrade as they release the contraceptive hormone levonorgestrel beneath the skin’s surface over the course of a month. Tests in rats indicate that the microneedles deliver the necessary birth control dose for more than 30 days, suggesting a patch could provide a simple, discrete alternative to pills, subcutaneous implants, and intrauterine devices (IUDs). Currently available long-acting hormonal contraceptives can protect women from unplanned pregnancies for years, but they are invasive and must be administered by trained health care professionals. “We developed this effervescent microneedle patch to increase access to long-acting contraception by enabling women to easily self-administer the drug without the need for a health care provider,” said Mark Prausnitz, an author on the study, which was led by Wei Li. The researchers designed the patch with contraceptive-releasing microneedles made from poly (lactic-co-glycolic) acid, a copolymer used in many pharmaceutical and medical products. In addition to demonstrating the efficacy of the patch in rats, Li et al. found it could be easily and painlessly applied when its application (alone) was evaluated on 10 women of reproductive age (the authors have not yet tested its efficacy as a contraceptive in humans). The participants all stated they would prefer the monthly patch to a monthly birth control injection, with 90% saying they would also prefer it to daily pills and 60% saying they would prefer to administer the patch themselves. In a series of focus group discussions and in-depth interviews, both women and providers welcomed the patch as a long-acting contraceptive and expressed that it seemed easy to use.