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Gates Foundation will help Make $1 Birth-Control Available to Poor Nations

Update Date: Nov 17, 2014 01:18 PM EST

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has teamed up with a pharmaceutical company as well as other aid groups to make birth-control more accessible to women living in poor, developing nations.

"When women have access to the means to time and space their pregnancies in a healthy way, we see improvements in maternal health, child health and in the economic prosperity of nations," Chris Elias, the global development chief of the Gates Foundation, said.

Currently, women from poor countries use an old contraceptive drug, called Depo-Provera. Even though Depo-Provera is a popular form of birth control for women living in Africa and Asia, it requires them to travel into an office or clinic where a skilled health aid worker can inject the syringe deep into a muscle. For many of these women, a clinic might not be easily accessible.

To make birth control more accessible, the partnership has agreed to subsidize the production a simpler version of Depo-Provera that would not require a highly skilled medical worker to administer it. The new drug, Sayana Press, created by Pfizer Inc., uses the UnijectTM autodisable injection system, which involves a smaller needle with a plastic bubble attached to it. The system was created by a nonprofit organization from Seattle called PATH. To administer the shot, minimally trained aid workers only have to make a shallow jab followed by a squeeze of the bubble.

"The real genius of this product is that it's so simple," said Michael Anderson, CEO of the Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), a U.K.-based philanthropy, reported by the Seattle Times.

''You can imagine somebody sticking this in their satchel and going into a very remote area,'' added Peter Stevenson, vice president for portfolio management at Pfizer's Global Established Pharmaceuticals, reported by CNBC.

The Gates Foundation, the CIFF and other groups will help bring the birth-control shot to 69 poor countries at a very affordable price after Pfizer agreed to sell the shot to governments and groups for $1 per three-month dose. The shot retails at $1.50. For the women, Sayana Press will most likely be available for free or at a reduced cost.

PATH is currently running a pilot to introduce Sayana Press to Niger, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Senegal funded by the Gates Foundation and other groups. So far, the researchers reported that in Burkina Faso, almost 6,000 women agreed to try the new shot. Up to 75 percent of these women were using birth control for the first time.

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