New Type Of Contraceptive Gel Approved

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The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved a birth control gel that works in a new way to prevent pregnancy.

Phexxi, a contraceptive made by San Diego-based Evofem Bioscience. (Christine Blackburne | AP Images)

Phexxi — pronounced FECK’-see — comes in an applicator that women insert before intercourse. The gel made by San Diego-based Evofem Biosciences contains lactic acid, citric acid and potassium bitartrate (also known as cream of tartar), all of which are common food additives.

The new gel has some similarities to spermicides, which block the entrance to the cervix and slow sperm down. But Phexxi works differently.

The vagina’s pH — a measure of acidity — is usually in the range of 3.5 to 4.5, the level needed to maintain healthy bacteria. Sperm typically raise that to a more hospitable level of 7 to 8. Phexxi keeps it in the usual acidic range, killing the sperm.

Unlike some other contraceptives, it only needs to be taken shortly before sex and it doesn’t contain hormones, which can cause side effects some women can’t tolerate.

The company said Phexxi will have a list price of $250 to $275 for a box of 12 without insurance.