Safety and acceptability of the candidate microbicide carraguard in Thai women: Findings from a Phase II clinical trial

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Objective: To determine the safety and acceptability of vaginal application of Carraguard, a carrageenan-derived candidate microbicide gel. Design: A randomized, placebo-controlled, triple-blinded clinical trial was conducted in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand. Methods: Women were asked to insert one applicator of study gel vaginally at least three times per week (with or without sex) and to use gel with condoms every time they had sex. Safety was assessed by visual inspection of the vagina and cervix, changes in vaginal flora and self-reported symptoms at day 14, month 1 and then monthly for up to 1 year. Acceptability was assessed through reported use of the gel, return of used and unused applicators, and quarterly interviews. Results: One hundred sixty-five women were randomized: 83 to Carraguard and 82 to the placebo (methylcellulose gel) group. Study gel use was similarly high in both groups throughout the trial with an average of four applicators per week. Carraguard use was not associated with abnormal genital clinical findings, abnormal vaginal flora, Pap smear abnormalities or other abnormal clinical signs or symptoms. Adverse events were mostly mild, not attributed to gel use, and similarly distributed between groups. Participants in both groups reported high acceptability. Conclusions: Carraguard can safely be used an average of four times per week with or without sex and is acceptable to Thai women. A Phase III efficacy trial of Carraguard is warranted and is currently ongoing in South Africa.