Hot on the heels of a partnership agreement to reduce the price of the long-acting, contraceptive implant Jadelle by half (see my blog of February 22), comes an announcement by Merck (MSD) and partners to reduce the cost of IMPLANON® and its next generation IMPLANON NXT® by 50% for the next six years in 70 of the poorest countries around the world. Implanon® is the only single-rod, long-acting reversible contraceptive implant (Jadelle has two rods). It offers three years of pregnancy protection through a one-time single insertion by a trained health care worker. “Notably, IMPLANON and its next generation IMPLANON NXT® are pre-packaged and fully sterilized, making them easy and convenient to insert, including in settings with limited health care infrastructure,” according to the announcement. (Learn more about Implanon and two other hormonal implants, Jadelle and Sino-implant (II), at K4Health’s Implants Toolkit.)
A family planning client in Kampong Thom, Cambodia, displays her contraceptive implant insertion site.
© 2012 Marcel Reyners, Courtesy of Photoshare
MSD and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are direct parties to the agreement. Other facilitating parties include the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the governments of Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Sweden, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
According to a USAID press release about the earlier Jadelle price reductions, about 600 million women in the developing world use some form of contraception, but only 1% to 2% of them are using long-acting, contraceptive implants. Surveys show that as many as 20% would prefer them, if they were available. An article published in the Global Health: Science and Practice Journal (co-published by USAID and the K4Health Project) explains that if 1 of 5 women in sub-Saharan Africa who were currently using pills or injectables switched to the more effective contraceptive implants, more than 1.8 million unintended pregnancies would be averted in 5 years, resulting in 10,000 fewer maternal deaths and almost 600,000 fewer abortions.
Now with the cost of all three implants on par at about US$8 per set, there is a tremendous opportunity to provide modern contraceptives at low cost to the 222 million women—73% of whom live in developing countries—who want, but don’t have access to, them.