(CNSNews.com) – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is offering $3 million in funding “for the development of novel female contraceptives” in fiscal year 2014, and eligible recipients include, among others, universities, tribally controlled colleges, state and local governments, public housing authorities and foreign institutions.
“This funding announcement is part of a strategic approach to develop novel methods of female contraception that are not hormonally based, have fewer adverse side effects, and may be easier for women to use,” the NIH said in a statement issued after CNSNews.com made inquiries about the grants.
In the full announcement from Nov. 5 it says that the NIH and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) are offering the $3 million to fund approximately 10 new awards; that applicants’ projects should not exceed five years in duration; and that the goal is to develop “clinically useful female contraceptive products.”
Those products are needed, according to the NIH, because although there are "multiple contraceptive options" in the United States and 62% of American women are using contraception, "the unintended pregnancy rates and abortion rates continue to be high."
Further, although the contraceptive pill is popular with U.S. women, "hormonal contraceptives have the disadvantage of having many undesirable side effects" and are "associated with adverse events," said the NIH. Also, there is a failure rate of 9-30% with the pill because of a failure to take it daily as required, said the agency.
For those and related reasons, "there is a need to develop highly effective non-hormonal contraceptives that have fewer side effects than the currently available methods," said the NIH.
CNSNews.com asked the NIH several questions about the grants, including whether it was standard for the health agency to include projects conducted in other countries as eligible for the funding. Under the "other" category in the announcement for entities eligible to apply for the funding is listed "Non-domestic (non-U.S.) Entities (Foreign Institutions)."
Also, CNSNews.com asked the agency whether it had data to support the idea that women who use birth control are less likely to get pregnant or have an abortion.
NIH did not respond to those questions but issued the following statement:
“Unintended pregnancy rates remain high in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 50% of all pregnancies are unintended. Unintended pregnancies increase the risk for poor maternal and infant outcomes. Among other health outcomes, low birth weight, prematurity and post-partum depression are all associated with unintended pregnancy.
“One of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy is for women to use safe and effective birth control correctly and consistently.
“This funding announcement is part of a strategic approach to develop novel methods of female contraception that are not hormonally based, have fewer adverse side effects, and may be easier for women to use. Helping to reduce unintended pregnancy for women by making a new generation of safe, effective, and easy to use contraceptives should help improve health outcomes for both the mother and infant.”
Applicants can start applying for the taxpayer-funded grants on Feb. 28, 2014, and applications must be submitted no later than March 31, 2014.