What should I do if I miss a pill? This much-googled question might soon become a thing of the past, as scientists have announced a new monthly contraceptive pill.
Over 50 years since it became widely available in the UK, the pill is the most popular form of prescribed contraceptive for women in the UK today. In fact, recent figures obtained by the Guardian showed that almost nine in 10 women on contraception in England used the combined pill between 2017 and 2018.
But many readers will likely relate to findings from a recent multi-national survey, which show that between 40-50% of women miss at least one dose every three months. It also found that roughly the same amount of women take the pill at the wrong time. Because of these errors, there is a 9% chance of having an unplanned pregnancy while taking the pill.
These survey findings were referenced in a new study by scientists who have announced a new “monthly pill”.
The gelatine pill dissolves in the stomach and releases synthetic hormones to prevent pregnancy for at least three weeks. It is designed to resist immediate attack from stomach acids.
So far, the pill has only been tested in pigs. After 29 days, the synthetic hormones were still present in their blood. In comparison, the synthetic hormones were almost completely cleared within two days for pigs given a dose of the daily pill.
So, how exactly does it work?
The prototype is a star-shaped drug delivery system packaged into an easy-to-swallow dissolvable capsule. Once it reaches the stomach, the star unfolds like a flower and starts to steadily release contraceptive hormones housed on its six arms. The star is too big to immediately exit the stomach, so it remains there for weeks until it has finished its job and can be broken down and excreted from the body.
Writing in the Science Translation Medicine journal, the researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology said that a company called Lyndra therapeutics will work on developing the pill for humans.
In response to the news, Dr Diana Mansour from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare told the BBC: “The concept of a monthly oral contraceptive pill is attractive and has the potential to broaden contraceptive choice.
“In theory, a monthly pill may be more effective than current oral contraceptives, which women are required to take every day.
“However, the development of such a novel contraceptive is still in its early stages. We look forward to further research in this area.”
Could this be the end of forgetting to take the pill? We’ll have to see if scientists can tailor it for humans.