(BPT) - Imagine a world where all women – not just those who could afford it – would be able to access the quality medicines they need. That idea is becoming a reality based on the efforts of a small, San Francisco-based company with a big vision.

Medicines360 is a global nonprofit women’s health pharmaceutical company with a mission of expanding access to quality medicines, regardless of their socioeconomic status, insurance coverage or geographic location.

The company was formed in 2009, funded by a philanthropist passionate about women’s health and who recognized a significant gap in women’s healthcare and access to quality medicines. Despite the availability of effective birth control in the U.S., unintended pregnancies were stagnating at a rate of 50%, and even higher amongst lower income women.1

The struggle to find the right type of birth control that is affordable and suits a woman’s lifestyle is a heartbreaking reality for many low income women or women without insurance. One of the most effective birth control methods, LARCs, including IUDs, are the top choice in women’s contraception by doctors who specialize in women’s health. Although LARCs are 20 times more effective than birth control pills, patches or rings over the long-term,2 currently only 8% of U.S. women use an IUD.3 Intrauterine devices, or IUDs, are considered to be one of the most effective forms of contraception, but are selected infrequently by clinicians and women. And cost of an IUD is considered one of the main barriers.4

“All women should feel empowered to make choices about their family planning needs that fit their own lifestyle, regardless of income or insurance status,” said Clare Coleman, President and CEO, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), a non-profit organization representing more than 840 institutional providers of family planning and sexual health care in communities across the country.

Despite the Affordable Care Act, millions of women still do not have adequate access to healthcare and contraception. This includes lower income women who live in states that do not provide Medicaid coverage for contraception and undocumented women who may not have access to healthcare insurance.5,6 It is no surprise that women may opt for less expensive methods including the pill.7

“IUDs are truly the best-kept secret in contraception. They’re highly effective, easily reversible and last for years. And unlike other birth control methods, there are no daily or monthly routines associated with an IUD, making them almost foolproof,” said Dr. David Eisenberg, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Washington University in St. Louis. “I also know from my experience with the CHOICE project, there are great benefits in reducing unintended pregnancy by removing cost barriers to the most effective methods of birth control. While comprehensive contraceptive counseling is crucial to women making the best choice of contraceptive, if they don’t have insurance coverage or can’t afford the most effective methods then they don’t truly have a choice.”

Medicines360 is taking a new path to providing women with broader access and more choices to quality medicines. The company developed their first product, a hormonal IUD, and initiated the largest IUD study ever conducted in the U.S. called ACCESS IUS. This study included a diverse group of women that reflected the U.S. population.

The company then formed a groundbreaking partnership with a pharmaceutical company with expertise in women’s health to help distribute and market the product. Under this partnership, the IUD will be available at a commercial price, and at a lower price in public health clinics enrolled in the 340B Drug Pricing Program.

What makes the Medicines360 approach different from other pharmaceutical companies is that they reinvest all of their proceeds into identifying, developing and further expanding access to quality medicines in the U.S. and globally.

After more than five years of study, the IUD was approved by the FDA in February 2015. For women who could not access this highly effective contraceptive in the past because of high costs, this means they now have more choice. And that is music to Medicines360’s ears.

With their singular mission to help women, they are forging a refreshing new path to bringing quality medicines to market and are doing it in a socially-minded way that removes barriers and expands access to medicines for women, regardless of socioeconomics or insurance coverage. For millions of women this means they are now able to access more healthcare choices, which will be music to their ears.

For additional information on the company, visit: medicines360.org.

1 Guttmacher Institute, Unintended Pregnancy in the United States Fact Sheet. February 2015.

2 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Frequently Asked Questions. Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptive (LARC): IUD and Implant. July 2014.

3 Guttmacher Institute, Contraceptive Use in the United States Fact Sheet. June 2014.

4 Eisenberg D, McNicholas, C, Peipert J. Cost as a Barrier to Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptive (LARC) Use in Adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2013.

5 National Women’s Law Center, Contraceptive Coverage in the Health Care Law: Frequently Asked Questions. January 2015.

6 National Women’s Health Network, Health Care Reform —A Woman’s Issue. 2007.

7 Trussel J, Leveque J, et al. The Economic Value of Contraception: A Comparison of 15 Methods. American Journal of Public Health. 1995, 85:494-503.