Pills and a pill bottle on a blue background.

What you need to know about the new STI morning-after pill

In a bid to tackle the alarming rise in sexually transmitted infections, Australian sexual health doctors are rallying behind a groundbreaking idea: using a common antibiotic as a morning-after pill.

This innovative approach aims to reduce the spread of certain STIs, and the drug in question is known as Doxypep.

On today’s episode of The Briefing, we speak to a sexual health specialist at the Kirby Institute, Vincent Cornelisse, about what this new medication means. 

Despite extensive efforts to educate the public on safe sex practices, STI rates in Australia have surged by a substantial 30 per cent over the past five year. Alarmingly, syphilis has reached a 70-year high. 

Enter Doxycycline. It’s a well-established and affordable antibiotic that has been used to treat conditions like acne in the past. Recently it has emerged as a potential game-changer in the fight against STIs.

“Over the last couple of years there have been some major trials internationally, in France and in the US, looking at using this antibiotic as a prevention tool. This is not using long courses of the antibiotic – This is using two tablets or 200mg of doxycyclin after sex. So, within 72 hours after sex or preferably within 24 hours after sex,” Vincent explained.

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The Research has found taking Doxycycline within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse can help prevent bacterial STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, providing up to three days of protection.

However, there’s little evidence the drugs can have a similar impact in women. 

“There was a trial for women in Kenya and, unfortunately, it was shown not to be effective in that population. We can go into the reasons why that may be so, but so at the moment, and this is a really important part of the message at the moment, DoxyPWP is only really considered appropriate for gay and bisexual men because of the lack of evidence for effectiveness in women,” he explained. 

Now a group of 40 Australian doctors have joined forces in calling for the introduction of Doxypep as an STI treatment.

Australia’s fastest growing daily news podcast, The Briefing, serves up the latest news headlines and a deep dive into a topic affecting you. All in under 20 minutes. This is the go-to podcast for Australians looking for a thorough briefing on the news of the day. For more episodes, download the free LiSTNR app.