Pharmaceutical jewelry: Earring patch for transdermal delivery of contraceptive hormone

J Control Release. 2019 May 10:301:140-145. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2019.03.011. Epub 2019 Mar 12.


Lack of adherence to medication dosing schedules is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality with large associated financial costs. This is especially true for contraceptive hormones, which provide almost perfect prevention of pregnancy when used correctly, but have significant failure rates in typical use, due largely to poor adherence. To increase medication acceptability and adherence, we introduce pharmaceutical jewelry, in which a transdermal patch is incorporated into jewelry worn on skin. To demonstrate the approach, we incorporated transdermal patches containing the contraceptive hormone levonorgestrel (LNG) into an earring, a ring, a necklace, and a wrist watch. Transdermal delivery of LNG from earring patches across porcine skin ex vivo achieved a steady state flux of 1.7 μg/cm2·h. Pharmacokinetic analysis in hairless rats yielded LNG delivery rates that maintained serum LNG levels near 1500 pg/ml throughout the 1-week patch application period, which is well above the human contraceptive threshold concentration of 200 pg/ml. When patches were applied cyclically for 16 h on and 8 h off to simulate earring removal at night, serum LNG concentrations dipped during off periods, but remained well above the human contraceptive threshold. Earring patches were well tolerated by the rats. We conclude that pharmaceutical jewelry can provide a novel method of drug delivery, especially for contraceptive hormones, that has the potential to improve acceptability and increase medication adherence.

Keywords: Levonorgestrel; Long-acting reversible contraception; Medication adherence; Pharmaceutical jewelry; Skin patch; Transdermal drug delivery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female / administration & dosage*
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female / blood
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female / pharmacokinetics
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Jewelry*
  • Levonorgestrel / administration & dosage*
  • Levonorgestrel / blood
  • Levonorgestrel / pharmacokinetics
  • Rats, Hairless
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin Absorption
  • Swine
  • Transdermal Patch*


  • Contraceptive Agents, Female
  • Levonorgestrel