Researchers from Georgia Tech developed and performed initial testing for contraceptive patches administered via jewelry that could provide a new avenue for birth control, according to findings presented in the Journal of Controlled Release.
“Approximately 40% of births worldwide are unintended, which means that there is a need for additional contraceptive options to enable better family planning,” Mark Prausnitz, PhD, a professor in the school of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, told Endocrine Today. “The contraceptive earring can help women adhere more reliably with using the contraceptive and thereby increase the success of contraception.”
Prausnitz and colleagues created transdermal patches made of microfibers that contain levonorgestrel as the contraceptive hormone between two adhesive layers, according to a press release. The researchers said patches could be created for use with earrings, rings, choker necklaces and wristwatches.
In their study to determine feasibility of this method, the researchers focused on patches that would be used on the back of earrings, which averaged about 0.7 cm2, but could fall between 0.5 cm2 and 1 cm2. These patches were tested in two ways. In the first, researchers applied the patch to pig skin and found that the levonorgestrel transferred by the patch ranged between 20 ug and 40 ug per day. This compared favorably with the accepted rate in human contraception, according to the researchers.
To determine long-term transference, the researchers tested patches sized for earrings on hairless rats. In an initial group of 10 rats, patches of roughly 0.7 cm2 were placed on the back. During 1 week of observation, the researchers reported, levonorgestrel levels “remained relatively steady” and reached as high as 1,550 pg/mL, outpacing the 200 pg/mL recommended for human contraception. After 1 week, the patches had transferred approximately 176 µg of levonorgestrel.
The researchers also sought to identify how effective this method would be in the course of normal practices where jewelry is removed for long stretches, such as overnight. To do so, they adhered patches to another group of 10 hairless rats for 16 hours before removing them for 8 hours. According to the researchers, levonorgestrel levels decreased during the 8-hour period, but not to a concerning level, maintaining a concentration that was more than 50% of what was found during the 16 hours of adherence.
“A properly designed patch could accommodate these variations to maintain [levonorgestrel] concentration above the minimum contraceptive effectiveness threshold,” the researchers wrote, adding that future designs could address the desire to change pieces of jewelry each day and to incorporate other contraceptive hormone combinations of progestin and estrogen.
According to Prausnitz, a patent application for this pharmaceutical jewelry has been filed, but future research should address how well the patch works on human skin and whether larger doses of levonorgestrel can be incorporated.
“This approach is motivated by the need to improve medication acceptability to patients, which can lead to improved adherence to medication dosing schedules,” the researchers wrote. “Acceptability may be increased because wearing pharmaceutical jewelry feels less like a medical intervention and more like a component of normal daily activity. Many people enjoy wearing jewelry, which may further improve acceptability of the medication.” – by Phil Neuffer
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.