It’s more easy to take a pill once a month than to take one once a day. A monthly pill is introduced by new research and tests it in pigs.
Researchers estimate that 9% of women in the U.S. who take the birth control pill become pregnant each year, with regular use.
For the drug to be effective a person must take an oral contraceptive every day and preferably at the same time of the day.
It can be hard to maintain this consistency, and it can make this form of birth control less attractive.
A research that appears in Science Translational Medicine now presents a new alternative: a birth control pill that only needs to be taken once a month by a person.
According to the researchers, the new monthly pill slowly releases the common contraceptive drug levonorgestrel over 4 weeks.
How does the star-like pill work?
There are six rigid arms in the monthly contraceptive pill, each with multiple doses of levonorgestrel.
The arms are made of carefully selected polymer materials that, in the presence of stomach acid, take about 4 weeks to break down.
Throughout the month, the polymer arms release the contraceptive into the stomach and bloodstream.
At the center of the pill is a rubbery core that allows folding and slipping into a swallowable capsule of the gelatin-coated, star-shaped structure.
The star unfolds as stomach acid digests the gelatin, expanding to a size which enables it to remain in the stomach without going through the digestive system until it has delivered the drug.
The scientists are continuing to experiment with conditions that would cause the arms to break off, including pH or temperature changes and exposure to certain chemicals.
This pill testing has yielded positive results, in pigs.
The researchers note that the contraceptive released at a steady rate for about 28 days, and that the amount of the drug detectable in the bloodstreams of the pigs was about the same as in a person taking regular levonorgestrel pills.
While a daily tablet level of the drug fade over 24 hours, the amount created by the new pill remained steady for nearly a month.
Co-lead author Ameya Kirtane, Ph.D., at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research in Cambridge, says: “Coming up with a monthly version of a contraceptive drug could have a tremendous impact on global health. The impact that oral contraceptives can have on human health and gender equality cannot be overstated.”
Prof Robert Langer, co-senior author of MIT, adds, “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 as well as other indications.”
The study’s other senior author is Giovanni Traverso, Ph.D., a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA. Tiffany Hua, formerly a technical associate at MIT, is the other lead author.


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