Women should be able to find and use a contraceptive method of their choice, and self-injection with DMPA may be an appealing option for those who want to manage their own reproductive health. Photo: PATH/Will Boase
Recent evidence on self-injection of a new injectable contraceptive called subcutaneous DMPA (DMPA-SC) is providing one possible answer to an age-old question in family planning: How do we address barriers that make it difficult for women to keep using contraception consistently?
According to three recent studies, women who self-inject with DMPA-SC in their own homes or communities may continue using injectable contraception longer than those who receive injections from providers. In many Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) countries, injectable contraception is already popular, but often requires women to return to clinics every three months for injections. This can pose a significant barrier to consistent contraceptive use, especially for women who live in rural and remote areas. These new findings on self-injection should be very good news for women who like injectable contraception—if the global FP field has the courage to put this option for pregnancy prevention directly in women’s hands.
Health advocates have a long history of increasing access to lifesaving products, especially for women and children, by affecting policy change. But what happens when, once adopted, the national policy doesn’t translate into increased product access throughout the country? Policy change alone is not always sufficient to achieve improved access to health products. However, advocates have an important tool at their disposal to complement policy change: market advocacy.
The patch's microneedles penetrate the skin only slightly, causing less discomfort than traditional syringes. Photo: Georgia Institute of Technology.
The use of microneedle patches as a drug delivery platform has received a lot of media buzz of late. The concept of microneedles is actually several decades old. It has taken relatively recent advancements of microfabrication technology and manufacturing techniques to move the concept to reality. Today, this cutting-edge technology is being evaluated—and in some cases already being used—for diagnostic purposes and to deliver drugs, vaccines, and biotherapeutics. Indeed, the use of microneedle patches to deliver vaccines could be a major breakthrough impacting global health.