FHI 360 receives grant to expand contraceptive choices for women

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support development of a longer-acting injectable contraceptive

December 09, 2011

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC — FHI 360 today announced it has received a new grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support the identification and early testing of innovative approaches to longer-acting injectable contraception. This project is the first step toward bringing a game-changing injectable contraceptive to market within the next 10 years, thereby expanding contraceptive access and choice for women around the world.

More than 35 million women worldwide use injectable contraceptives, and in sub-Saharan Africa, more than one-third of contraceptive users choose injectables. Injectable contraceptives appeal to many women who seek a family planning method because they are effective, do not require daily compliance and can be used discreetly. However, despite broad adoption, discontinuation rates are high. Currently available injectables are effective for 1–3 months (depending on the formulation), requiring women to return to their provider 4–12 times per year. As many as 40 percent of women who discontinue this method do so due to missed follow-up appointments.

Research conducted among women using injectable contraceptives indicates that longer intervals between injections may lead to higher compliance and continuation rates. Dr. Vera Halpern, FHI 360 director for the new project, said "We are excited about the potential of this project to fill a critical gap in the method mix. An injectable family planning method that lasts for six months or longer would provide women with greater choice, ultimately increasing contraceptive use and reducing the rate of unintended pregnancies."

"Contraceptive research and development is a high priority for the foundation," said Ms. Monica Kerrigan, Deputy Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "New formulations of contraceptives that are discrete, affordable, easy to administer, have fewer side effects, and are safe and effective will meet the needs of hundreds of millions of women in sub-Saharan Africa."

As part of the initiative, FHI 360 will search for promising candidates at different stages of drug development across multiple therapeutic areas. Limited funding will be available for proof-of-concept testing for strategies that are determined to have the potential to be developed into a longer-acting injectable contraceptive.