Could contraception one day be as simple as just putting on your earrings each morning?
That's what researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology believe, noting that contraceptive jewellery may be a more effective way of ensuring women remember their birth control each day by making it more "appealing".
"The more contraceptive options that are available, the more likely it is that the needs of individual women can be met," said lead author Professor Mark Prausnitz. "Because putting on jewellery may already be part of a woman's daily routine, this technique may facilitate compliance with the drug regimen."
In their paper, published in the Journal of Controlled Release, the authors note that lack of adherence to medication dosing schedules is a significant issue. "This is especially true for contraceptive hormones, which provide almost perfect prevention of pregnancy when used correctly, but have significant failure rates in typical use, due largely to poor adherence," they write.
Enter pharmaceutical jewellery.
In simple terms, the birth control works by administering contraceptive hormones through special backings on jewellery such as earrings, watches, rings or necklaces. It's a variation on the same transdermal patch technology used to prevent travel sickness, help people quit smoking and control symptoms of menopause. And while contraceptive patches are also already available in some places, Professor Prausnitz believes that pairing them with jewellery will allow more discreet use.
"There is a lot of experience with making and using conventional transdermal patches," he said. "We are taking this established technology, making the patch smaller and using jewellery to help apply it. We think that earring patches can expand the scope of transdermal patches to provide additional impact."
Professor Mark Prausnitz and his team conducted preliminary testing of the earrings on rats. The patches were applied for 16 hours then removed for eight hours at night, to mimic removal of earrings for sleep. And while levels dropped when the earrings were removed, the researchers found that the patch could produce necessary amounts of the hormone in the blood.
"We conclude that pharmaceutical jewellery can provide a novel method of drug delivery, especially for contraceptive hormones, that has the potential to improve acceptability and increase medication adherence," the authors write.
Adds Professor Prausnitz, "The advantage of incorporating contraceptive hormone into a universal earring back is that it can be paired with many different earrings. A woman could acquire these drug-loaded earring backs and then use them with various earrings she might want to wear."
Some of the potential designs for contraceptive jewellery:earrings, rings, watches and chokers. Photo: Georgia Tech University
Hilary Rorison of the Australian College of Midwives says that transdermal delivery of medication via patch is quite common for many types of medication.
"A transdermal patch for birth control is already readily available overseas (though not available in Australia currently)," she notes. "Birth control methods, whether natural or hormonal, are an important part of a woman's ability to determine when and if to have children. The Australian College of Midwives welcomes any additional options for women in this space, provided they have underdone stringent safety trials and women are provided with all information with which to make an informed choice."
With human testing yet to take place, we'll watch this space.
In the meantime, if you really want to wear your birth control as jewellery there are other options.
What a time to be alive.
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