A New USAID Cooperative Agreement with WomanCare Global Supports the Research, Development and Introduction of Woman-Controlled Family Planning Technologies in Zambia, Malawi and India

Posted on: December 17, 2013 by: Amy McNally

SAN DIEGO, CA ― WomanCare Global has been awarded a cooperative agreement from the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Office of Population and Reproductive Health, “Expanding Effective Contraceptive Options” (EECO). This five-year program will be implemented in partnership with Population Services International (PSI), Every1Mobile (E1M), the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and Evofem.

The goal of EECO is to meet the needs of women and girls as their sexual and reproductive health concerns change over time, through the introduction of five new woman-controlled contraceptive methods that address common method related concerns and reasons for non-use. These woman initiated products have been selected because of their potential to fill gaps within the family planning method mix that act as barriers to use for millions of women globally, including side effects (49 million women); use during infrequent sex (47 million women); use while breast-feeding (38 million women); and partner opposition, and thus would like to use a discreet method (22 million women) [Guttmacher Institute, 2011, 2012]. The EECO products include:

  1. NES/EE vaginal ring, a new medium-term hormonal method developed by the Population Council that lasts for one year and requires no cold chain.
    Benefits: Easy to use and discreet. Its medium term-use (can be used for 13 cycles) minimizes trips to a provider or pharmacist. NES/EE meets the needs of women who may encounter partner opposition and who don’t want a family planning method that requires a daily routine.
  2. Progesterone vaginal ring, a three-month progestin-only contraceptive method designed by the Population Council especially for use by postpartum women who are breastfeeding.
    Benefits: This is the first IVR safe for breastfeeding women; it is easy to use and discreet.
  3. SILCS Diaphragm, a new type of diaphragm developed by PATH that is easy to use, does not need to be fitted by a clinician, and is reusable for up to three years.
    Benefits: Pericoital, non-hormonal, easy to use and discreet. Its one-size-fits-most eliminates the need for provider fitting, and it is designed for easy insertion and removal. Appropriate for women who have infrequent sex, who do not want the side effects of hormonal methods and who prefer a discreet method. Additionally, studies are being conducted to test SILCS feasibility as a multi-purpose prevention technology (MPT) component.
  4. Woman’s Condom, a unique type of female condom developed by PATH to be more acceptable for men and women, and that is easy to insert, use and remove.
    Benefits: A pericoital, non-hormonal method which is easy to use and provides MPT.
  5. Amphora, a safe and effective non-hormonal contraceptive gel developed by EECO team partner Evofem.
    Benefits: Pericoital, non-hormonal, easy to use. It does not contain nonoxynol-9 (N-9) and its high bioadhesivity makes it a less “messy” alternative to other gels. A suitable choice for women who have infrequent sex, want a non-hormonal method, or are looking for backup to another method, such as condoms or diaphragms.

The project plans to conduct pilot introductions of these five products in India, Malawi and Zambia.

The EECO Project will use a product-agnostic approach to identify each product’s most likely target audiences, its perceived positive and negative traits, and the key to making it appealing to women. The Project will produce actionable information on how best to register products, which distribution and communication channels have the most appeal, what kind of training and advocacy are required, and how to segment the market for each method.

The EECO partners will focus on the following activities:

  • WCG, the prime, will bridge the private sector and non-profit worlds by linking upstream product developers/suppliers and downstream marketing and distribution partners. WCG will lead regulatory and quality assurance efforts to register and make products available in countries, and will pilot highly intensive medical detailing with providers.
  • Evofem, the bio-tech partner, will bring Amphora through clinical trials and the regulatory approval process.
  • PSI, the social marketing partner, will work through its existing family planning networks to market and distribute products.
  • E1M, the m-health partner, will launch social media campaigns in selected markets to increase dialogue and awareness about the methods.
  • ICRW, the research and gender partner, will coordinate consumer and provider research, focusing on product acceptability and contraceptive decision-making.

Together, the EECO Project Team will move products out of development and into the hands of women in pilot countries, learning lessons that will translate to other countries and markets. The Project Director is Mrs. Chastain Fitzgerald (WCG), the Deputy Director is Temple Cooley (PSI), the Agreement Officer’s Representative (AOR) is Ms. Tabitha Sripipatana (USAID), the Technical Adviser is Dr. Judy Manning (USAID), and the Program Analyst is Mr. Imran Mahmud (USAID).

Saundra Pelletier, CEO of WomanCare Global, commented, “We are excited to be partnering with USAID and other key partners on the introduction of new reproductive healthcare technologies.” Pelletier, who has led WomanCare Global for the last four years, went on to say, “these products are entirely woman-controlled, so they have the potential to fill a very important niche in these markets.”

WomanCare Global is also pleased to congratulate its partner The Population Council on their recent cooperative agreement from USAID, “Delivering a Family of Contraceptive Vaginal Rings” which will facilitate the development and introduction of the NES/EE and Progesterone vaginal rings in developing markets. WomanCare Global will support The Population Council by registering the two products in Senegal, Kenya and Nigeria and providing supporting medical detailing.

Combined, these two new programs will pave the way to introduce new and underutilized family planning methods to millions of women in need, offering expanded contraceptive choice, and generating actionable evidence for the future introduction of new methods.

 

About Our Partners:

The EECO Project will have the capacity to provide technical assistance (TA) to other cooperating agencies, bilateral projects and developing country organizations. TA is available through the project for the introduction of these non-hormonal vaginal contraceptive products through a variety of service delivery channels. The project can accept field support from partner countries for research and the provision of TA.

 

About WomanCare Global

Meeting the vast unmet demand for family planning and enabling women to choose whether and when they’ll have children requires investing in cost-effective, innovative approaches. WomanCare Global’s mission is to provide access to reproductive health solutions for women and girls around the world. Leveraging our medical, social and commercial expertise, we have built a sustainable value chain that enables us to reliably deliver high-quality products and point of care services, resulting in more informed providers and more family planning options for women and girls. WomanCare Global is a global non-profit healthcare company focused on women’s reproductive health and our model is to redirect financial surplus achieved from sales in developed countries to under-served markets to eliminate economic and geographic barriers and thereby increase impact.

 

Media and Project Contacts

Media: Ellen Thomas: ethomas@womancareglobal.org; +1.718.490.3248
Project: Chastain Fitzgerald: cfitzgerald@womancareglobal.org; +1.858.550.1900, ext. 112

 

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