The world of female reproductive health may never be the same, thanks to a new biomedical engineer and his intravaginal ring invention. The device delivers an antiretroviral medication and contraceptive for months. It’s designed to protect women against HIV and prevent unplanned pregnancies and will be the first device of this kind to be tested in women.
The ring delivers two medications that do three very important things. The ring protects against the HIV virus and herpes and prevents unintended pregnancy. It will be the very first device with the potential to offer this type of protection to women. The easy to use ring delivers a measured dose of tenofovir, a retroviral medication and levonorgestrel a contraceptive, for three months. The devices are being made right now and will soon undergo testing in females.
Details about the ring’s development was first published in March 2014, by PLOS ONE, a peer reviewed publication in the form of an online journal.
The inventor, Patrick Kiser, a biomedical engineer from Northwestern University, feels women will use the device mostly for contraception, but would also benefit from being protected against HIV and herpes. For women in developing countries, the ring can prevent unwanted pregnancies, as well as have a significant impact on health, the economy and culture.
With a 5.5 centimeter diameter, the ring is simple to use, yet complex. Kiser and his colleagues worked on developing it for more than five years, painstakingly engineering the three materials that make up the ring and optimizing the device to deliver reliable, fixed and effective dosages of each medication, over a long time period.
How to Use the Ring
This device is easily inserted into the vagina and it is designed to stay in place for 90-days. Because the tenofovir is delivered at the site of transmission, the ring uses a smaller dose than pills. The levonorgestrel released by the device is the same medication that is used in some oral contraceptives and in intrauterine devices.
Tenofovir is taken via mouth by 3.5 million HIV sufferers all over the world, but is has also been studied as a gel. This medication inhibits the HIV virus and HSV-2 (herpes simplex virus-2) reproduction in compromised cells.
Previous studies have found that antiretroviral medications can prevent HIV infection, but the methods that currently exist for delivering the drug are not effective. Pills must be taken on a daily basis and in high doses, some women may prefer having an alternative longer-lasting option; such as the ring, verses a method used at the time of sexual intercourse, such as a gel.
By having a ring device that can remain in the body for up to three months, the research team hopes that it will offer a solution to increase adherence and therefore provide greater protection against herpes and the HIV virus. Products only work when they are used consistently, and it is hoped that this new invention will make it easier for women to avoid STDs and unplanned pregnancies.