October 1, 2009 / 6:00 PM / 10 years ago

Female Health's condom available, no U.S. retail yet

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Female Health Co’s new version of its female condom is now available to state health agencies and nonprofit organizations, but the company is still trying to make it more widely available in stores.

The condom, known as FC2, will cost about 30 percent less than the original version at less than a dollar apiece, the company said on Thursday.

FC2, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March, will be available at Washington, D.C.-area CVS stores in December, Female Health’s senior strategic adviser Mary Ann Leeper told Reuters. Female Health is still seeking a marketing partner to help advertise and sell the product and is in talks with several companies, she added.

“We need the other company to really make a dent into the consumer market,” she said.

The original female condom never had a large following in the United States, where consumers complained it made too much noise and spoiled intimacy. The FC2 uses a new, softer material that the company says is quieter and should be more acceptable.

But the female condom is used widely overseas, especially in countries hard-hit by HIV, where women see it as a way to protect themselves even if their male partners won’t. The U.S. Agency for International Development, which lobbied for the FC2’s approval, has said it plans to distribute it for global programs that aim to curb HIV.

U.S. state health departments and organizations such as Planned Parenthood can also buy it for their programs, which the company hopes will start to spread the word about the product’s improvements.

While FC2 may face an uphill battle at the retail level, it could see greater use with its new lower price.

The original female condom retailed for as much as $4 each. The new material and manufacturing have lowered the price of the new version from distributors to no more than 82 cents per condom, the company said. Male condoms, available in a variety of brands and styles, can cost as little as 50 cents apiece.

Representatives for CVS Caremark Corp, which operates CVS stores, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Shares of Female Health were down 5.7 percent to $4.76 in afternoon trading on Nasdaq.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Tim Dobbyn and Gerald E. McCormick

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