The Population Council is developing a microneedle patch containing Nestorone® for discreet, on-demand contraception when applied prior to sex.
Among women living in low- and middle-income countries, 40.9% have an unmet need for contraception; they want to avoid pregnancy but are not using any method of contraception. The two most prevalent reasons for nonuse of contraceptives are “health concerns” and “infrequent sex.” For women who have an unmet need for contraception, including women with have infrequent sex, contraception options beyond the currently available barrier methods and spermicides are important.
The Population Council, in collaboration with Georgia Tech, is developing a small microneedle patch containing either Nestorone® or levonorgestrel as a new contraceptive method for discreet, on-demand use. Nestorone is a highly potent progestin that has been approved as a contraceptive in Annovera, a Council-developed vaginal ring delivery system. Nestorone is 100 times more potent than progesterone, meaning small doses can be loaded into microneedle patches to provide several days of contraceptive protection following a single application. Levonorgestrel is a progestin commonly found in both oral contraceptive pills and non-oral delivery systems, including the hormonal IUD.
The patch in development is designed to be manually pressed onto the skin, allowing for the microneedles to penetrate the skin and rapidly dissolve to create a depot for drug release. The patch backing can be removed shortly after application.
The Population Council and Georgia Tech are currently developing a patch prototype, which will be tested in vivo to confirm the dose before moving to clinical trials.
The microneedle patch will offer a highly effective, discreet method of contraception that is controlled by the user and will not interfere with sex. This small “thumb-sized” patch will be easy to apply, low-cost, and optimized for a 3-year shelf-life under tropical conditions without the need for refrigeration. The small size and discreet self-application of this on-demand patch will make it ideal for low-resource settings and for women with have infrequent sex.