Contraceptive patch hits SA market

The long-awaited contraceptive patch, which studies have shown to be more effective than the Pill, is now available in South African pharmacies.

The 'coolest innovation of 2002'
Called the "coolest innovation of 2002" by Time magazine, the patch enables women to forget about having to take the Pill every day - they can now simply stick on a patch once a week, according to Dr Alan Alperstein from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Cape Town, and private practitioner at the Kingsbury Hospital in Cape Town.

He was the main speaker at a press launch of the product, called Evra, by pharmaceutical company Janssen-Cilag.

Patch 99% effective
The patch, which is applied directly to the skin (either the buttocks, the torso, the abdomen or the upper arm), has proved to be 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. The patch is so thin that it can be worn unnoticed under clothing, and does not come off, even in humid conditions or during strenuous exercise.

The patch is worn for a week at a time and changed on the same day for three consecutive weeks. The fourth week is "patch-free". It delivers a continuous flow of hormones through the skin into the bloodstream, and this suppresses ovulation.

Compliancy rates higher, side effects fewer
Clinical studies, a part of which was conducted in South Africa, showed that compliancy rates were much higher among users of the patch than the Pill - 88% as opposed to 75% for the Pill.

"Side effects, such as headaches and nausea, were also fewer among patch users, especially after the first month of use," said Dr Alperstein. "The main advantage of the patch is that its contraceptive efficiency is not affected by diarrhoea, vomiting or use of certain antibiotics, as the hormones do not go through the gastro-intestinal tract. The patch is also practical, convenient and easy-to-use, which is why more American women use the patch than the Pill."

It also has a two-day safety window, so if you forget to change your patch on the given day, you are still protected against pregnancy.

Evra is available on prescription from pharmacies and costs in the region of R93 (inclusive of pharmacy exit fee) for a month's supply.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24)

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