Drug-releasing intravaginal ring could help women control HIV prevention

In areas of the world where AIDS affects a higher number of women than men, a highly compliant, preventative treatment designed specifically to offer women control over their own regimen would be a major step forward in overcoming economic and cultural obstacles. And now, researchers at Northwestern University have developed a device that could help solve the problem.

The team of scientists at the school's Department of Biological Engineering designed an intravaginal ring that releases an antiretroviral drug over a long period of time, a replacement for such regimens as daily pills or vaginal gels that have low levels of compliance. And after showing a 100% success rate in blocking the simian immunodeficiency virus in animal models, the device, called a tenofovir disoproxil fumarate intravaginal ring, will enter human trials soon, according to a university report.

As reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the ring delivers a powdered version of the antiretroviral drug tenofovir for up to 30 days at a time. The drug is currently taken orally by 3.5 million people with HIV worldwide, the university reports.

And the ring itself plays a part in its effectiveness: The polymer that makes it up swells in the presence of fluid to deliver up to 1,000 times the dose of the drug more than current rings on the market. It can also be loaded with other drugs such as contraceptives or other sexually transmitted disease-preventing antivirals. A ring option with long-lasting effects and a combination of drugs would help boost compliance rates and give women more control over their own health and safety.

The November clinical trial will test the ring's safety and drug-release mechanism in 60 women over 14 days at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

- here's the Northwestern University report
- read the research abstract

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