Last week the FDA approved a new version of the female condom, which is promised to be less expensive and more comfortable than the original, two factors which may have inclined few gay men to try the product.
In 1993 the FDA approved Female Health’s original female condom. The product’s domestic appeal was limited, with just 10% of 34.7 million unit sales taking place in the United States. Two barriers to sales became evident: price, with the female condom costing $2.80 to $4 each, compared to as little as 50 cents for male condoms; and the polyurethane material of which the condom is made. “When I talk to my patients — the biggest concern they have is that it’s noisy — ‘a snap, crackle, pop,’” said Stanford University Medical Center gynecologist Paula Hillard.
The improved product, FC2, seeks to address both problems. It is constructed of synthetic rubber, and the simpler manufacturing process — similar to that of male condoms — will reduce its cost. In addition, the softer material may entice more women to try it. The FDA tends to follow the advice of its review panels. FDA approval of FC2 would also permit its distribution in other countries by the U.S. Agency for International Development. FC2 has already been adopted in many other nations.