Since 2009, when MPTs officially became a “thing,” we have had a lot of conversations about MPTs and answered even more questions. We have spoken with friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, seatmates on plane flights – you name it. Until recently, not many people had heard of MPTs, and we spent a large part of these conversations doing quite a bit of explaining.
Most people we talk to seem universally on board with the concept of MPTs, thinking that it “just makes sense” as a prevention approach. However, because there aren’t many ready-to-use MPTs on the market (condoms being the sole exception) they are also hesitant to get “too excited” about future products still in development. For many, MPTs sound great – but intangible, disconnected from reality.
Yet MPT products are not as abstract as they may seem. There is an entire pipeline of products in various phases of development – some product types are entirely new, and some are far along in development. Recognizing that there is no one method that works for everyone, the MPT field is aiming to expand the number of choices that women and girls have for comprehensive prevention of sexual and reproductive health risks. This is an exciting field that has the potential to add a whole new dimension to the prevention method mix as we know it.
People often ask us what types of products we are talking about. Well, perhaps you are familiar with the Nuvaring®, a small, flexible contraceptive ring that is inserted into the vagina once a month. This is also known as an intravaginal ring (IVR), and MPT developers are using this product platform to address multiple indication combinations, like unintended pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In fact, there are numerous new and innovative intravaginal ring designs that would allow for multiple medications, like hormonal contraceptives and antiretrovirals (ARVs), to be released simultaneously and provide multipurpose prevention. But that’s not all!
Like the rings, there are other new product platforms in development as MPTs. There are intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants that could release hormonal contraceptives and ARVs to provide long-acting protection against unintended pregnancy and HIV, or combinations of ARVs to protect against HIV and other STIs. There are also gels; fast-dissolving vaginal and rectal inserts, kind of like suppositories; and even fast-dissolving films, reminiscent of LISTERINE® strips – but for use in the vagina that could be used on-demand for prevention of HIV and other STIs and unintended pregnancy in the case of some gels. Some of these products combine familiar hormonal contraceptives and ARV compounds, but others include new and innovative compounds, like lactobacilli, proteins isolated from algae, or monoclonal antibodies.
In sum, there are close to two dozen products in the MPT pipeline – a dozen of which are in clinical testing. While the horizon for some of these products may be far in the future, there are others that have the potential to reach the market sooner and could be early game-changers for women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health. All of these products in development need our support to move forward. We, here at the IMPT, are not just working towards an intangible idea – MPT products are real and they are needed by women and girls worldwide.
It’s our job at the IMPT to make sure you stay informed and up to date about MPT products. A big part of this education and outreach is done using our MPT Product Development Database, which we update on an ongoing basis. But we can always do more! Through this blog, we will be launching an MPT Product Developer series in the Spring of 2018, where you can learn more about the exciting product prospects under development first hand from those who are working on the products themselves. For now, you can visit the MPT Product Development Database for more product specific information. And, please, if you are a product developer working on something not captured through our work – let us know!
The future of women’s health will be written by all of us.