The gel alone could have a potential worldwide market of more than $1 billion, said Anne-Marie Corner, senior vice president of women's health at biopharmaceutical firm Cellegy in Brisbane, Calif.
Cellegy says it has more than 3,000 patients enrolled in two separate phase III HIV-prevention trials in Africa, as well as in a phase III contraception trial under way in the United States. The trials are to end next year.
Emerging specialty pharmaceutical company Durect in Cupertino, Calif., says it's developing a viscous biodegradable gel that enables a controlled release of drugs.
"We're developing a relative of Novocain with an extended release technology," said James Brown, Durect's chief executive officer. "Instead of lasting four hours, it lasts four days."
The demand for longer lasting pain relief following surgery could, by itself, generate a $1 billion market, and potentially reduce hospital stays by one to three days -- an achievement that might have an $8 billion cost-saving impact for hospitals by cutting nursing time and drug orders.