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Pfizer, Gates Foundation, expand contraceptive access in poor nations

Nov 13 (Reuters) - Pfizer Inc and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Thursday announced an agreement to expand access to the drugmaker's long-acting Sayana Press contraceptive to women in 69 of the world's poorest countries, for $1 per dose.

The drug, which will be available in pre-packaged capsule syringes and given every three months, had previously been introduced under the program to only a few of the poorest countries, including Burkina Faso, Niger and Bangladesh. It is also approved in Europe.

Sayana Press is a low-dose formulation of Pfizer's Depo-Provera, a contraceptive now sold by generic drugmakers that is also taken every three months.

But Sayana Press can be given by injection just under the skin, from a pre-filled syringe, which could performed at home or in other non-clinical settings.

By contrast, Depo-Provera must be drawn by needle from a vial and injected deep into the muscle, a more complicated procedure typically performed by nurses or other medical personnel in clinics.

The easier use of the newer formulation could spare many women the need to travel dozens of miles every three months for a new injection, Pfizer said.

"It's a simple way to increase access to women who want contraception, in a setting where there may be limited healthcare systems," John Young, who is in charge of Pfizer's array of generic medicines, said in a conference call with media.

(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by James Dalgleish)