IRVINE, California — Pfizer, a well-established American multinational pharmaceutical corporation, and several global aid groups have united around developing a new Depo-Provera contraceptive for the developing world. The new version of the drug has been signed in an agreement, which will make the contraceptive injections accessible in 69 nations to women in the world’s poorest countries.
Depo-Provera is an injectable contraceptive that is given once every three months. Injectable contraceptives are one of the most popular methods of birth control worldwide and especially among poor women who value the convenience and discretion. Many of these injections are still out of reach for many women who reside in rural areas that are far from health clinics.
The new product, Sayana Press, is a pre-filled, single dose contraceptive designed to be portable and easy to use. It is combination of two things, a drug and a device, that have already existed. The drug is Depo-Provera and the device is called a Uniject system.
A Uniject Device is a disposable, single-use syringe developed to promote vaccinations in developing countries. Its single-use needle has alleviated the problem of needle sharing in places where HIV and AIDS became widespread. The Uniject system was previously used to administer tetanus and Hepatitis B vaccines to eliminate the use of multiple needles.
With its reformulation into a lower dose, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1992, it is injected under the skin with little health care training needed. It is considered a unique product because of its cost-efficiency and its value for women in countries where birth control is not widely accessible. It provides a discreet method of contraception that lasts for three months, and women who are interested do not need to devote a trip to the clinic to obtain it.
Pregnancies in many developing countries oftentimes fall into the high-risk category whether planned or unplanned. According to the World Health Organization, maternal mortality is high in women living in areas among poorer communities, where 99 percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries.
“Easy access to contraceptives are crucial to individual, family, and community health in developing countries,” reported Sara Tifft, the global program director for the Sayana Press project.
The popular product is already being used in many African countries but is being planned to expand its distribution and be sold at lower than its cost. The product typically stands at costs of $1.50 a dose, but through a financial partnership, the product would be sold to health care organizations in developing countries for about $1.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and the United States Agency for International Development are among the several groups that will help finance the cost and support in introducing it in countries worldwide.
“Voluntary family planning is one of the great public health advances of the past century,” the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation reported in their overview statement at the 2012 London Summit. Their end goal is to bring access to valuable birth control to an additional 120 million women and the women of the poorest countries by 2020 without discrimination.
– Sandy Phan
Sources: WHO, Gates Foundation, Path
Photo: Huffington Post