Glob Health Sci Pract 2014;2:182-194

Preferences for a potential longer-acting injectable contraceptive: perspectives from women, providers, and policy makers in Kenya and Rwanda

Tolley EE, McKenna K, Mackenzie C, Ngabo F, Munyambanza E, Arcara J, Rademacher KH and Lendvay A


Background: Between 1995 and 2005, injectable use doubled worldwide. However, discontinuation rates remain high, partly because of side effects but also because of missed appointments for reinjection. A longer-acting injectable (LAI) may improve compliance by reducing the required number of reinjection visits, thereby reducing unintentional discontinuation. This study examined acceptability of LAI characteristics comprising the target product profile (TPP).

Methods: In 2012, we conducted qualitative case studies in Kenya and Rwanda, consisting of 19 focus group discussions (FGDs) with 177 current, previous, or never users of injectables and 46 in-depth interviews (IDIs) with providers, program implementers, and policy makers. FGDs and IDIs assessed current injectable experiences; attitudes toward potential LAI products; and perceptions of TPP attributes, including ranking preferences for the most and least important characteristics. In addition, we obtained completed electronic surveys from 28 international family planning opinion leaders about the perceived need for an LAI, important product characteristics, and challenges to LAI development or introduction.

Results: Many FGD participants and interviewees spontaneously expressed strong interest in an LAI, but there was some variation in TPP preferences. The majority of participants ranked effectiveness as the most important TPP attribute. Providers were generally more concerned about side effects than potential users; some potential users suggested that side effects were related less to the product than to their own body chemistry and that side effects were acceptable as long as they did not last a long time or disrupt daily activities. Women and providers, especially in Kenya, preferred a method with a predictable return to fertility. Some participants associated amenorrhea with delayed or reduced fertility. Most women and providers preferred delivery of the LAI in a single, prepackaged, disposable injection system to facilitate injections by providers and to reduce the risk of pain or discomfort for women. While providers and policy makers ranked cost as one of the most important issues, it was among the least important issues for most potential users. Many Kenyan, but few Rwandan, participants appeared willing to pay for an LAI, with some presuming cost savings from reduced menstruation and fewer clinic visits.

Conclusions: Physicians and their professional associations exert a strong influence on the operationalization of national contraceptive policies. Evidence-based advocacy and educational campaigns targeting doctors are needed to address and resolve their reservations about ECPs, particularly about its provision as an OTC product and its distribution by CHWs. Partnerships with medical associations can help reduce doctors' negative attitudes and create a conducive environment for influencing clinical practices. Such changes are needed to increase the availability and use of ECPs as part of a package of a full range of contraceptive method options to prevent unwanted pregnancy among the most vulnerable populations.

Comment: Although it was to be expected that users and providers often prefer a longer acting family planning method, the surprising finding in this paper was that users are less worried about the price than providers. It teaches us to ask clients for their opinions about all aspects of contraceptive methods, and not just using our own ideas in decision making. (HMV)