Female contraceptives are one of the ways to prevent pregnancies, only if you take it daily without fail. But the fact is, most of the women forget to take that pill. Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital with support from the Gates Foundation are trying to create a once-a-month birth control pill, to solve this issue.

In the study published in Science Translational Medicinethe team led by the Robert Langer, who runs one of the world’s largest chemical engineering labs at MIT, and Dr Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, report on a polymer they designed to survive in the harsh, acidic environment of the human stomach for about 30 days. The new, monthly pill releases the common contraceptive drug levonorgestrel gradually over four weeks, explain the researchers. In a test with pigs, they found that the monthly pill released about the same amount of levonorgestrel in the blood each day as a daily pill.

Currently, long-acting birth control methods that release contraceptives continuously require an invasive procedure to the implant, usually on the upper arm, which is a deterrent for some women. Other long-term methods, including intrauterine and intravaginal devices, some of which also release hormones that prevent pregnancy, require insertions and removals to be performed by doctors. A long-acting pill would give women more control over their contraception without the complications of implants and devices.

“Coming up with a monthly version of a contraceptive drug could have a tremendous impact on global health. The impact that oral contraceptives can have on human health and gender equality cannot be overstated,” Co-lead author Ameya Kirtane, Ph.D., of The Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in Cambridge said. 

Co-senior author Prof. Robert Langer, also of MIT, adds, “We are hopeful that this work the first example ever of a month-long pill or capsule, to our knowledge — will someday lead to potentially new modalities and options for women’s health as well as other indications.”

Source: Medical News Today, Time.com

A once-a-month oral contraceptive
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