Medical News Today: Innovative skin patch may offer long-term contraception

Researchers have devised a new technology that may soon enable women to “self-administer long-acting contraceptives” in a matter of seconds.
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More than 60 percent of women of reproductive age in the United States are using contraception, according to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The most popular contraceptive methods are the pill, with 28 percent of women using it, and female sterilization, with 27 percent.

The birth control pill is effective in the short term, but more and more women are opting for long-acting methods, such as intrauterine devices and implants.

Currently, such long-acting means of contraception require a healthcare professional to administer them, but new research may bring the benefits of long-acting contraception in a much more accessible form.

Researchers led by Wei Li, a postdoctoral researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, devised an innovative technology that would deliver the contraceptive levonorgestrel through a microneedle skin patch.

Mark Prausnitz, a Regents’ Professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech, is the corresponding author of the paper, which they have published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Creating the patch and how it works

For their contraceptive method, Li and colleagues used microneedle skin patch technology, which scientists have already developed for administering vaccines.

The patch has drug-containing microscopic needles that break off after a person applies the patch for a few seconds. The tiny needles then remain just under the skin, releasing the drug.

Li and colleagues molded microscopic air bubbles into the top of the needles to enable them to break. The microneedles, after this modification, are strong enough for an individual to push under the skin but remain weak enough to break when they shift the patch to one side.

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