Access to adequate family planning services is critical in the Global South where an estimated one-third of all maternal deaths could be prevented by allowing women to plan their pregnancies. Injectable contraceptives are a common birth control method for women worldwide but they need to be routinely administered in a clinic and, as a result, are not always accessible to rural women. Earlier this month, a new and improved injectable contraceptive product called Sayana Press was launched in Burkina Faso to overcome this issue.
Sayana Press combines a lower-dose formulation of Pfizer’s Depo-Provera contraceptive drug with an all-in-one auto-disable injection system known as BD Uniject. A single dose of the drug is packaged in a small disposable plastic capsule with a needle attached. It is designed to be injected every three months in the fat layer between the skin and muscle which means no syringe is required. Because of this simple delivery system, Sayana Press can easily be administered by mobile health workers in remote and resource-poor areas with limited health infrastructure.
The product is currently being piloted in Burkina Faso with plans to extend the roll out to Uganda, Senegal and Niger later this year. These regions have been selected due to the high percentage of women who want but lack access to family planning options. In Burkina Faso, this initiative is part of a strategy to increase contraceptive use among married women from 15 percent in 2010 to 25 percent by 2015. The west African country is set to receive 250,000 doses of the drug.
In each of the four selected African countries, the initiative is being led by the respective Ministry of Health with support from a range of partners including the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Pfizer, PATH and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. According to Pfizer’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, “it is largely through innovative private-public partnerships such as this that we can ensure the long-term viability of [the drug’s] supply and distribution.”
This coordinated effort emerged out of the London Summit on Family Planning in 2012 that committed to providing 120 women and girls from the world’s poorest countries with improved family planning information and services by 2020. Because Sayana Press is easy-to-use, requires minimal training and is packaged for a single-dose, it provides the ideal product to reach women living in poor, rural areas. Depending on the outcomes of the pilot, project partners will also explore the possibility for self-injection in the future.
This project marks a major victory for millions of women in the Global South who lack access to the services needed to make decisions about their own bodies.
To hear more on the impact of family planning on development, watch David Cameron’s Keynote Speech from the 2012 London Summit below.