- Tiffany Hua
- A team of scientists developed a slow-release birth control pill that people only have to take once a month.
- The birth control pill delivers a steady stream of hormones to users.
- While the preliminary tests on pigs are a step in the right direction, it will likely be years until this product hits the commercial market.
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A possible solution for the once-a-day stress of taking birth control pills for over 10 million Americans is on the way.
A team of researchers from MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, are in the process of testing and creating a slow-release birth control pill that users only have to take once a month.
Combining the technology of oral contraceptives and longer-lasting birth control options like IUDs, the pill slowly releases hormones, staying in the digestive tract for a 21-day period before breaking down and exiting the body.
In addition to being a more convenient option than daily contraceptives, researchers hope the new pill will be a more effective birth control method, as the daily pill’s effectiveness is diminished when not taken daily and consistently at the same time.
The scientists involved conducted their first trials of the new pill on pigs last year and published the findings of their most recent study in Science Translational Medicine on December 4.
While the preliminary trials of the drug are promising, researchers say it will likely be a few years before it becomes available to the general public.
- Lyndra Therapeutics
The new birth control unfurls after being ingested
The new pill comes in a gelatin capsule that dissolves when it gets to the stomach, letting the silicon star unfurl and stay in the body for the full 29 days of the hormonal cycle. While it’s in the stomach, it delivers a steady dose of levonorgestrel – the same hormone used in the morning after pill and certain IUDs.
The star naturally breaks down over time and passes through the digestive tract after the cycle is over.
A similar drug delivery system was previously used by MIT researchers to treat malaria and HIV over longer periods of time.
Once-a-month birth control reduces the chance of user error
According to MIT, previous research has indicated that people are better are remembering to take medication when the dose is weekly or monthly rather than daily.
Researchers hope that the new drug’s monthly cycle will increase the likelihood of users remembering to regularly take it, resulting in increased rates of effectiveness.
“We are hopeful that this work – the first example ever of a month-long pill or capsule to our knowledge – will someday lead to potentially new modalities and options for women’s health,” Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, said in an MIT press release.