Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer recently announced that it was partnering with the Gates Foundation and the UK-based Children’s Investment Fund Foundation to expand access to affordable birth control in nearly 70 developing countries.
Accessing and affording birth control is a perennial major concern for women in developing countries, especially those living in rural areas. To address both concerns, Pfizer will be providing a three-month supply of the injectable birth control Sayana Press to qualified healthcare purchasers for $1 USD. Sayana Press, which isn’t approved for use in the United States, is a lower-dose version of Depo-Provera, which is widely available in this country.
Similarly to Depo-Provera, Sayana Press is administered once every three months by a trained health care worker. Meaning that every three months, women must travel to a health center to have the shot administered. The new version of Sayana press is provided in a pre-packaged, single-use syringe, allowing for easy administration in non-clinic settings, eliminating the need for women to travel to a health clinic to receive their birth control.
Earlier this year, PATH, which developed Sayana Press’s simplified syringe, provided oversight for pilot projects of the injectable birth control in Niger, Burkina Faso, Uganda, and Senegal. According to Jennifer Drake, assistant project director for PATH, the pilot projects have shown great promise. In Burkina Faso alone, approximately 75 percent of the women that opted to try Sayana Press were using birth control for the first time.
Pfizer’s partnership with Gates and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation is supported by private and public organizations like PATH, USAID, and the UN Population Fund, which will work in conjunction with Pfizer and Gates to increase the availability of Sayana Press in 69 developing countries.
Gates and Pfizer are keeping pretty quiet about their respective financial commitments in this new partnership. However, Gates has committed around $20 million in the past to various projects and programs that promote the use of the Sayana Press.
Pfizer has long supported global health programs and has partnered with a number of organizations in efforts such as anti-smoking campaigns, malaria eradication, and HIV/AIDS treatments. As for its latest efforts, John Young, President, Pfizer Global Established Pharma Business, has this to say:
Pfizer saw an opportunity to address the needs of women living in hard-to-reach areas, and specifically enhanced the product’s technology with public health in mind. I’m so pleased with the leadership from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and other collaborating organizations that are helping create a sustainable market through an approach that could be a model for other medicines.