University of Rochester Tests Affordable Intrauterine Device

Lower-Cost Device Could Improve Access to IUD for Birth Control

September 16, 2002

Doctors at the University of Rochester’s Reproductive Health Program and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology say that a less expensive copper intrauterine device (IUD) may soon make the birth control method affordable for more women. The $300 cost of the current copper IUD poses a financial barrier to many women, leaving them fewer options for birth control.

Principal Investigators Nancy L. Stanwood, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and Savita Ginde, M.D., fellow in the University’s Reproductive Health Program, are leading a pilot study to test methods for measuring copper in women who are wearing a copper IUD.

The copper IUD works as a contraceptive by releasing copper in the uterus that prevents sperm from reaching an egg. Once these measurements are standardized, say the researchers, they plan to perform a larger study comparing the copper from the current device to the copper from a new manufacturer, to determine if the less expensive devise is equally effective. The less expensive copper IUD is currently marketed throughout the world but further testing is needed before it can be approved for sale in the United States.

The modern copper IUD provides up to 10 years of highly effective contraception; it works equally as well as a woman getting her tubes tied. But unlike tubal ligation, it does not require surgery and it is totally reversible. Once placed in the uterus during an office exam, it can be used until a woman wants another pregnancy. At that time, it is easily removed in the office and fertility returns quickly.

However, many insurance plans do not cover the cost of and IUD. “Some women would like to use the copper IUD, but they can’t afford to pay for it. It’s unfortunate that women have to choose their birth control according to their budgets rather than their medical needs and preferences,” says Dr. Stanwood.

The pilot study will involve 10 healthy women, five wearing copper IUDs and five who are not. During an office exam, samples for measuring copper will be taken from the cervix and uterus. “Once we identify the best method to measure the copper, we will then perform the larger study comparing the current device to the new one. This information will help bring the second copper IUD into the US market,” says Dr. Ginde.

 Study subjects will receive $100 for participating. Women interested in participating can learn more about the study by calling the Reproductive Health Research Clinic at (585) 341-8044.

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Lori Barrette
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