Contraceptive gel found effective in early tests

Cellulose sulfate gel appears to be “an effective vaginal contraceptive without many side effects,” Dr. Christine K. Mauck, of the Contraceptive Research and Development Program at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Arlington, told Reuters Health.

In a preliminary study, Mauck and colleagues found that cellulose sulfate vaginal gel performed as well as nonoxynol-9. With time and further research, this vaginal contraceptive may become an alternative to the nonoxynol-9 based contraceptive gels currently available in the US, they suggest.

Mauck and colleagues enlisted 200 fertile, heterosexual couples, at low risk for sexually transmitted infections, to use cellulose sulfate gel as their main contraceptive for 6 months or 6 menstrual cycles.

Overall 82 couples completed the study without becoming pregnant. Ninety-eight couples reported using the gel at least once and, of these, 18 became pregnant.

The remaining participants discontinued for personal reasons, because they no longer met study criteria, were lost to follow up, or quit prior to having used the gel.

Pregnancy occurred nearly 4 percent of the time among couples reporting “perfect use” over 6 menstrual cycles, the researchers report in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Among couples who used the gel incorrectly, used an additional contraceptive method, and/or had unprotected intercourse - so called “typical” use - the probability of pregnancy was roughly 13 percent.

Most of the side effects reported by study participants were mild and only possibly related to the gel. Fourteen women and one man reported reactions to the gel, and all but one of these reactions was mild.

As a vaginal contraceptive, cellulose sulfate gel “yields pregnancy rates comparable to nonoxynol-9 and few adverse events among couples at low risk for sexually transmitted diseases, Mauck and colleagues conclude.

SOURCE: Obstetrics and Gynecology, March 2008

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