Researchers have discovered a circular, coin-sized patch that could be as effective as contraceptive pills. The surface of the patch is covered with biodegradable microneedles holding the emergency contraceptive hormone, levonorgestrel.
After five seconds of the fixation of the patch on a user’s arm, the skin-pierced microneedles rupture, penetrate in the skin with a slow release of the drug and ultimately get dissolved.
A team of bio-molecular engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology after performing early trials in mice said that the patch could hold a great advantage in developing countries, where it is tough for women to go with long-acting contraceptives as the treatment accessibility is limited and incompatible in some regions. Also, a gynecologist’s approval is required before going with long-acting contraceptives, which include the shots and even some complicated processes such as IUD. However, patches are very simple to use.
Usually, people forget to take pills at the appropriate time every day, which strongly reduces its efficiency.
Earlier studies revealed the safety and effectiveness of using biodegradable microneedles. Around two years back, research performed by the scientists at Emory University proved that flu shots could be rapidly delivered into the body through the patch.
The recent research has used the same method but with alteration in the concept. In this method, the drug or medicine (the contraceptive hormone in this case) would be released in the body at slower rates, so that the effects of the drug last an entire month.
‘Co-author of the study, Mark Prausnitz said that the concept behind generating patch was unique, which involved adjusting the size of the needle according to the thickness of the skin. The strength of the needles was such that, they could easily penetrate the skin, but on the other side, they could also immediately broke down by remaining under the skin slowly diffusing the drug. These microneedles were made of biodegradable polymers: poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) and poly(lactic acid).
The effective use of this patch could considerably control the unintended and unwanted pregnancies.