Condom Manufacturers Differ on Whether To Stop Producing Condoms Containing Nonoxynol-9
Several condom and spermicide manufacturers have said that they will soon halt production of products containing nonoxynol-9 over concerns that the chemical may facilitate HIV transmission, but the three largest condom manufacturers have "no plans" to pull products containing nonoxynol-9 from the market, the Wall Street Journal reports. Nonoxynol-9 has been used for nearly 50 years as a spermicide and is contained in many lubricants and condoms, and it is the only kind of spermicide used in condoms and lubricants in the United States. Condoms containing the spermicide account for about 40% of the $295 million U.S. condom market. But studies have shown that nonoxynol-9 can break up or irritate the cell lining of the rectum and the vagina, and the CDC and the World Health Organization in June issued warnings that the chemical has been found to be "ineffective in stopping" the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. A study scheduled to be published in the Lancet this week states that in a clinical trial of sex workers in Thailand, South Africa and the Ivory Coast, nonoxynol-9 was linked to a higher rate of genital lesions and HIV infection. Drug maker Johnson & Johnson plans to "phase out" its condoms treated with nonoxynol-9 by early next year. Marc Monseau, a spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson, said that the company's decision to stop producing nonoxynol-9-treated condoms "followed an evaluation of the recent recommendations" from public health agencies. The company's condoms are sold in Brazil and Colombia. Monseau added that the company stopped producing its KY Plus lubricant, which contained nonoxynol-9, in July because sales of the product were declining. Planned Parenthood, which distributes condoms at its clinics, and Mayer Laboratories, which claims to be the fourth largest condom manufacturer in the United States, have also announced plans to stop offering or producing products containing nonoxynol-9.
Some Condom Makers Will Continue to Offer N-9 Products
A spokesperson for the Advanced Medical Technology Association said that the top three condom manufacturers do not plan to pull their nonoxynol-9 products from the market. Armkel LLC, manufacturer of Trojan condoms, the top-selling condom brand in the United States, stated that it will continue to sell condoms treated with the spermicide. Richard Kline, vice president for marketing at Armkel, said that the company is "working with the FDA to improve labeling" for its condoms, but added that "the [nonoxynol-9-treated] condom is still an important product for women as a backup contraceptive," according to the Journal. The new condom label might contain a statement such as "for vaginal use only," the Journal reports.
Campaign Aims to Drive N-9 Off Market
Some public interest groups, however, are calling on companies to pull their nonoxynol-9 products from the market. Scientists, public health advocates, gay rights groups and some women's organizations are planning to launch a public awareness campaign next month to persuade companies to stop manufacturing products containing nonoxynol-9. "In the interest of public health, the safest thing to do is eliminate nonoxynol-9 condoms and lubricants from the market," campaign organizer Lori Heise of the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, said. The groups involved in the campaign say that nonoxynol-9 should not be used during anal intercourse, by sex workers, by "anyone engaged in multiple acts of intercourse in one day" or for use in preventing STD transmission (Zimmerman, Wall Street Journal, 9/25).