Wednesday, 4 December 2019
WASHINGTON (AP) — Birth control pills work great if women remember to take them every day but missing doses can mean a surprise pregnancy. Now scientists have figured out how to pack a month’s supply into one capsule.
The trick: A tiny star-shaped gadget that unfolds in the stomach and gradually releases the drug.
The experimental capsule is still years away from drugstores, but researchers reported Wednesday that it worked as designed in a key test in animals. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is investing $13 million for further development of the once-a-month pill, in hopes of eventually improving family planning options in developing countries.
“It has a lot of potential,” said Dr. Beatrice Chen, a family planning specialist at the University of Pittsburgh, who wasn’t involved in the new research. “Birth control is not one-size-fits-all,” and women need more options.
Today, women who want the convenience of long-lasting contraception can choose among various devices, from a weekly patch to a monthly vaginal ring to an IUD that lasts for years.
It wasn’t clear that “the Pill” — one of the most popular forms of birth control because it’s cheap and easy to use — ever could join that list. Pills of all sorts generally pass through the body in a day.
A team from the lab of Massachusetts Institute of Technology inventor Robert Langer engineered a fix to protect pills from the harsh environment of the digestive system.
“We developed this capsule system that looks like a starfish, that can stay in the stomach several days, weeks, even a month at a time,” said Dr. Giovanni Traverso of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a senior author of the study.
The star-shaped device has six arms, and each holds a certain medication dose. The...