Medicines360 Expands Access To Contraception In Africa
Featured online at Forbes.com
Written by: Macaela MacKenzie
Medicines360, the non-profit pharmaceutical company behind the hormonal IUD Liletta, is on a mission to increase women’s access to reproductive care around the world. This month, the female-led company announced the launch of Avibela, a hormonal IUD, in Madagascar.
In Madagascar, about 10 women die each day from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, according to the United States Agency for International Development. (For comparison, in the U.S.—which has the worst maternal mortality rate in the developed world, according to a studyfunded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—around two women die each day from pregnancy-related causes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) Meanwhile, the use of effective contraceptive methods remains low in Madagascar—estimates put use at only 40 percent for married women of reproductive age (15 to 49).
To help curb preventable pregnancy-related deaths, Madagascar’s government set a goal in 2015 to boost contraception use to 50 percent, reports NPR. That’s become especially ambitious in the wake of the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule by the Trump Administration, which experts say will significantly impact women’s access to healthcare in Africa.
Supported by the Expanding Effective Contraceptive Options (EECO) Project (a cross-organizational effort to make birth control more accessible for women around the world funded by USAID), Avibela is part of Medicines360’s goal of closing these gaps in access to safe contraception around the globe. “We’re trying to create a self-sustaining ecosystem [around the IUD] in Africa,” says Jessica Grossman, M.D., CEO of Medicines360. (Worth noting, sales of Liletta in the United States directly help fund research and development by Medicines360 that brings family planning solutions to countries like Madagascar.)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hormonal IUDs like Avibela, are 99.8% effective. In other words, bringing the IUD to Madagascar represents a significant move towards increasing access to effective family planning. The launch also represents a broader victory in increasing choices for women when it comes to contraception. “It’s really an incredible opportunity to expand the method mix,” says Lisa Goldthwaite, M.D., an OB/GYN who spent time on the ground in Madagascar training clinicians to safely use Avibela. “It’s not just about having a different competitor in the market [as with a launch in the U.S.] but about having a completely new method.”
Medicines360 is preparing to launch similar programs in Zambia, Kenya and Nigeria in the near future.