Safety of a silicone elastomer vaginal ring as potential microbicide delivery method in African women: A Phase 1 randomized trial

Annaléne Nel, Janine Martins , Linda-Gail Bekker, Gita Ramjee, Gileard Masenga, Helen Rees, Neliëtte van Niekerk
Publication year: 


Women in sub-Saharan Africa are in urgent need of female-initiated human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) preventative methods. Vaginal rings are one dosage form in development for delivery of HIV microbicides. However, African women have limited experience with vaginal rings.


This Phase I, randomized, crossover trial assessed and compared the safety, acceptability and adherence of a silicone elastomer placebo vaginal ring, intended as a microbicide delivery method, inserted for a 12-week period in healthy, HIV-negative, sexually active women in South Africa and Tanzania.


170 women, aged 18 to 35 years were enrolled with 88 women randomized to Group A, using a placebo vaginal ring for 12 weeks followed by a 12-week safety observation period. 82 women were randomized to Group B and observed for safety first, followed by a placebo vaginal ring for 12 weeks. Safety was assessed by clinical laboratory assessments, pelvic/colposcopy examinations and adverse events. Possible carry-over effect was addressed by ensuring no signs or symptoms of genital irritation at crossover.


No safety concerns were identified for any safety variables assessed during the trial. No serious adverse events were reported considered related to the placebo vaginal ring. Vaginal candidiasis was the most common adverse event occurring in 11% of participants during each trial period. Vaginal discharge (2%), vaginal odour (2%), and bacterial vaginitis (2%) were assessed as possibly or probably related to the vaginal ring. Thirty-four percent of participants had sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at screening, compared to 12% of participants who tested positive for STIs at crossover and the final trial visit. Three participants (2%) tested HIV positive during the trial.


The silicone elastomer vaginal ring had no safety concerns, demonstrating a profile favorable for further development for topical release of antiretroviral-based microbicides.