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Durex Stops Making Condoms With Nonoxynol-9 Due to Possible Increased Risk of HIV Transmission

January 21, 2004

SSL International, the maker of Durex condoms, has stopped producing condoms containing the spermicide nonoxynol-9, which in recent studies has shown that it may increase the risk of HIV transmission, BBC News reports (BBC News, 1/20). 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 sexually transmitted diseases and is active against some bacteria and viruses. According to data presented in January 2003, 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, 8/29/03). The World Health Organization, UNAIDS and the CDC have raised concerns about the use of the spermicide in condoms. In a statement, SSL said that it "is anticipating a material reduction in demand for spermicidally lubricated condoms following a recent WHO report which questioned the level of additional protection provided by such condoms when compared to non-spermicidally lubricated condoms. In light of this, SSL decided to discontinue using the spermicide N-9 in our condom manufacturing process."

Keith Winestein of the U.K. National AIDS Trust said, "This is a very welcome decision. A raft of agencies and organzations agree that N-9 is harmful and it needs to be removed from any products that might put the consumer at risk" (BBC News, 1/20). "The fastest way to get people to stop using N-9 condoms is to simply take them off the shelves," Global Campaign for Microbicides Global North Programs Director Anna Forbes said, adding, "We salute Durex's decision to become the first of the three largest condom manufacturers to put public health above profits in this matter. They are joining the ranks of responsible corporate leaders heeding the World Health Organization's guidance against promoting N-9 condoms" (Global Campaign for Microbicides release, 1/16). Several other companies, including Johnson & Johnson, which makes K-Y lubricant jelly, and Mayer, which makes the Kimono brand of condom, have stopped manufacturing condoms with nonoxynol-9 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/29/03).

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