By Onche Odeh
Nigerian women have given their perspectives on a new mode of delivering contraceptive that could provide the developers useful insight prior to its release for use.
Using Microarray Patch (MAP), a platform that enables delivery of drugs and vaccines using a skin patch, women will have the option to self-administer contraceptives.
The new method being developed by researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology is made of biodegradable polymer that slowly releases contraceptive hormone like levonorgestrel. The microarrays are being designed to rapidly separate from the patch backing so that the patch can be applied for as little as 10 seconds, after which the microarrays remain hidden below the skin’s surface to slowly release contraceptive hormone.
In user preferences study of the contraceptive MAP in India and Nigeria featured in a PLoS One article, the women expressed their views on self-administration, pain, location of patch among other aspects of the method.
When asked about their views on self- and provider-administration, women in Nigeria found self-use appealing, although most of them preferred that the service-provider administer MAP the first shot. The women in Nigeria talked about how this could save time and not missing work, as they also expressed general dislike for going to the clinic when not ill. The perceived advantages of self-use discussed by the women included convenience but also discretion.
According to the study, the women liked the fact that the mode of application was simple, fast, and did not require any instruments. Another perceived advantage reported by the women and providers in both countries is adherence. According to them MAP does not require daily intake.This they preferred to having to swallow drugs, receiving an injection, or undergoing an invasive procedure. They also liked the fact that it did not require exposing “private parts.”
Experience with MAPs in other contexts as reported by the PLoS One article suggests that a contraceptive MAP could be an attractive contraceptive for use in low- and middle-income countries, as a recent phase I clinical trial found that MAPs administering influenza vaccine were a safe, effective, and patient-preferred alternative to hypodermic needles. It also found that they could be painlessly self-administered.
This may be a chance for Nigeria to up the contraceptive prevalence rate and reduce cases of unwanted pregnancies and other complications associated with poor childbirth spacing. Currently in Nigeria, it is estimated that 63% of women of child bearing age do not have the intention of using any form of Family Planning.
Product development for contraceptive application is still at a pre-clinical stage; two variants of dissolving microarrays are being considered, with additional decisions to be made on specific patch features such as location or duration of application, among others.