One of the more interesting titbits of news this week was about a new idea for contraceptives that should now be headed to human trials. Normally, an oral contraceptive needs to be taken every day (apart from the optional week off, if you decide to take it and have simulated periods), but this one would be a single dose that lasts roughly a month. It’s been tested in pigs so far, and found to be effective.
The idea is to create a structure — a sort of star-shape with six arms — which would slowly release contraceptives into the digestive system without itself being broken down too quickly or swept along out of the body. The arms prevent the structure from passing through the stomach sphincter, until after about a month they’re degraded and fall off.
It’s an idea which is more discreet than taking a daily contraceptive, which may offer greater freedom to people who do not wish to become pregnant but may perhaps be under pressure and find it difficult to discreetly take a pill each day. Implants and injections aren’t appealing to everybody, even though those long-acting contraceptives are considered more effective, and a visible implant is hardly discreet.
Though it’s an interesting concept, I have reservations about how they’re going to ensure a daily effective dose and prevent early (or late) breakdown of the structure. Experts have mentioned the issue of dosage variation due to diet and other medications. Still, it would be pretty convenient, and I’ll be interested to know if it’s a worthwhile delivery mechanism for other drugs that might be best delivered through fewer doses with longer-term efficacy — what if you only had to take one pill to have a whole course of antibiotics, for instance?