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31 August 2006

Women choose patch over Pill

When it comes to preventing pregnancy, the patch is comparable to the pill, but the patch comes out tops in user satisfaction and convenience, a recent study has found.

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When it comes to preventing pregnancy, the patch is comparable to the pill, but the patch comes out tops in user satisfaction and convenience, a recent study has found.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology was conducted at 65 centres in 10 different countries (including South Africa), by Janssen-Cilag, the manufacturer of the only patch available. 1517 women participated in the studies. They were randomised in a ratio of 4:3 to receive either the contraceptive patch or the oral contraceptive.

In the study, it is mentioned that the contraceptive method is only as effective as the one who manages it – and that many women forget to take the Pill. For most women, it is simpler to remember to change a patch every week for three weeks (followed by one patch-free week), than it is to remember to take the Pill consecutively for 20 days.

The study results
This was reflected in the study results, in which women in all age groups rated the patch as 'somewhat or much better" than the pill when it came to emotional well-being, physical well-being and premenstrual symptoms. The approval rating was highest in the age group over 34 years of age, where the patch scored almost twenty percent more than the Pill in all three categories.

The results of this study point to the first evidence that that transdermal contraception has beneficial effects on the emotional and physical well-being of women, as well as in the area of premenstrual symptoms.

Is patch technology new?
"The clinical studies for the patch had already been done in drug trials elsewhere," says Dr Alan Alperstein from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Cape Town, and private practitioner at the Kingsbury Hospital in Cape Town. "Patch technology is not new – it has been used for a long time in hormone replacement therapy."

"But very complicated technology is used to manufacture the patch. This may be the reason why there is only one type available at present, as retesting would cost a fortune. The manufacturing company, Janssen-Cilag, would have to recoup their research costs first. And the patch doesn't come in fancy shapes and sizes, as it would be too expensive to manufacture," says Alperstein.

The patch consists of three layers – the middle of which contains the hormones, which are absorbed through the skin (transdermally). There are currently only two factories in Europe that manufacture the patch.

"But while the patch is a very exciting development in the field of contraception, it is just another contraceptive – but an effective and easy-to-use one. The revolution caused by the Pill in the sixties, when women found themselves in control of their fertility for the first time, was a once-off. Now pharmaceutical companies are working towards making contraception simpler and easier to use – and that's where the patch comes in," according to Alperstein.

The patch is available in South Africa, and can be obtained from pharmacies on prescription.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, October 2005)

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