Calif. Lawmakers, AIDS Advocates Send Letter to FDA, Manufacturers Asking Condom Makers To Stop Using Nonoxynol-9
California state lawmakers, HIV/AIDS advocates and women's advocacy groups on Wednesday sent an open letter to the FDA and manufacturers and retailers of condoms and lubricants calling for the country's largest producers of condoms to stop using the spermicide nonoxynol-9, the Los Angeles Times reports. The letter -- which was signed by state Assembly member Paul Koretz (D), Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson (D), AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein and National Women's Health Network Board Chair Sonja Herbert -- states, "Until recently, N-9 was believed to be an effective chemical barrier against HIV and a variety of other sexually transmitted infections. Recent studies published by [UNAIDS], the World Health Organization, the [CDC] and numerous peer-reviewed medical journals have concluded that N-9 not only does not help prevent sexually transmitted diseases, in some circumstances it actually increases the risk of contracting HIV" (Richardson, Los Angeles Times, 8/28). Nonoxynol-9 works as a vaginal contraceptive by damaging the cell membranes of sperm, and some laboratory evidence has shown that the spermicide damages the cell walls of some organisms that cause STDs and is active against some bacteria and viruses. According to data presented in January, nonoxynol-9's membrane-damaging effect can also harm the cell lining of the vagina and cervix, possibly increasing the risk of STD and HIV transmission in women who use the spermicide (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/17). Approximately 35% of the condoms sold in the United States contain a spermicide, and nonoxynol-9 is currently the only one used. Lawmakers and advocates pointed to condom makers Church & Dwight, which manufactures Trojan condoms, and Australian company Ansell Limited, which makes Lifestyle brand condoms, as manufacturers that use the spermicide. Johnson & Johnson, which makes K-Y lubricant jelly, and Mayer, which makes the Kimono brand of condom, have stopped manufacturing condoms with nonoxynol-9, the Times reports.
Koretz said, "Since January, I've tried to negotiate quietly with representatives to encourage them to phase out nonoxynol-9," adding, "They've dug in their heels and now refuse to meet with California health officials." Wesson said that condom makers should put "ethics over profit," according to the Times. He added, "They must stop and they must stop now. It is just the right thing to do" (Los Angeles Times, 8/28). Weinstein said, "Almost three years after [the CDC] issued a strong letter warning that condoms made using nonoxynol-9 can actually increase the likelihood of HIV transmission, it still remains business as usual -- profit over public health -- for these condom companies" (AHF release, 8/27). Church & Dwight officials said in a statement, "Calls for the market removal of condoms lubricated with the spermicide N-9 could confuse consumers about the benefits of using condoms to reduce the risk of disease transmission and potentially reduce condom use. Any decrease in overall condom use could have significant public health consequences." The company added that condom makers are "already working with the FDA on revised labeling for condoms lubricated with nonoxynol-9 to ensure they are used appropriately" (Los Angeles Times, 8/28). The FDA in January proposed a new label for over-the-counter contraceptives that contain nonoxynol-9, warning that the substance does not protect against HIV or other STDs and may increase the risk of HIV and STD transmission (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/17). Ansell Limited representatives did not return calls seeking comment, according to the Times (Los Angeles Times, 8/28).