Incredible women’s health innovations of 2022

By Kristen Fuller, MD | Medically reviewed by Vincent F. Carr, DO, FACC, FACP, CHCQM-PHYADV
Published December 12, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Female inventors are more likely to invent medical treatments that primarily benefit women; however, there is a 30-year shortage in inventions targeting women’s health as women represent a small percentage of US patent holders.

  • Despite the desperate need for more female patent holders, there were many innovative advances and discoveries for female patients in 2022.

  • From advancements in female fecal urinary incontinence to family planning, breast cancer, postpartum hemorrhage, and hair loss treatments, these innovations can help improve the quality of life for female patients.

Female inventors are more likely to invent medical treatments and innovations for females, according to research published by the Harvard Business School.[]

But the researchers found that an overall lack of female scientists limits the potential for future life-saving medical inventions for all patients, but especially for female-specific medical conditions, such as endometriosis, breast cancer, menopause, and pelvic floor disorders.

Therefore, further advances are needed to inhibit disease progression and improve the quality of life for women. Fortunately, there were some incredible discoveries for women’s health in 2022. Let’s take a look.

Non-surgical pelvic floor device for chronic fecal incontinence

Renovia is a women-led company that advocates for women’s health and develops non-surgical treatments for women’s pelvic floor disorders. In July 2022, the FDA approved its leva Pelvic Health System for first-line treatment of chronic fecal incontinence (FI) in women, according to a report published by PR Newswire.[]

The leva system was previously FDA-approved for treating stress and urinary incontinence in women.

The new indication “makes first-line, at-home treatment for FI, also called accidental bowel leakage, available to the over 12 million US women who suffer from the debilitating and progressive condition,” according to the report.

Innovative family planning methods and improvements

Hormone-free on-demand birth control gel: Phexxi (lactic acid, citric acid, potassium bicarbonate) from Evofem Biosciences is a vaginal pH modulator gel that can be used up to 1 hour before intercourse and does not contain estrogen or progesterone, making it safe for women who cannot or do not want to be on hormone birth control, according to an article published by Contemporary OB/GYN.[] It has an efficacy rate of 86% in preventing pregnancy with typical use.

Phexxl works by maintaining the acidic pH in the vagina, even after semen enters it during intercourse, thereby inhibiting sperm motility.

Improved estrogen vaginal ring: Annovera (segesterone acetate and ethinyl estradiol vaginal system) from TherapeuticsMD received FDA approval in 2018. It’s a vaginal ring that patients leave in for 3 weeks and take out for 1 week, which is repeated for 13 cycles.

Annovera doesn’t need to be refrigerated and is thicker than the other ring currently on the market. According to the Contemporary OB/GYN article, “studies demonstrated 97.3% efficacy in preventing pregnancy.”

Women’s hair loss drug for alopecia

In June 2022, the FDA approved baricitinib (Olumiant), a prescription medication intended to help hair regrowth by preventing the immune system from attacking and destroying hair follicles, as reported by The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).[]

Baricitinib is already on the market to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other immune-related diseases, but the FDA approval for alopecia is important for insurance coverage for this very expensive medication.

It was studied in two trials published in NEJM that involved 1,200 patients with severe alopecia areata.[] Nearly 40% of participants who took the drug had complete or near-complete hair regrowth after 36 weeks.

Related: How ‘hysteria’ cast a long shadow on women’s healthcare that still resonates

External catheter and urine collection system for female incontinence

The BD PureWick female catheter is a noninvasive urine collection system for female patients with urinary incontinence that can be used in hospitals and at home. It can help improve daily living for patients and caregivers alike as it reduces nighttime trips to the bathroom and allows for better sleep.

According to an article published by Medical Design & Outsourcing, “BD designed the catheter to 'wick' urine away from the patient and into a designated collection canister.”[]

Related: Women have historically been excluded from research. Where are we now?

Treatment for abnormal postpartum uterine bleeding 

Obstetric hemorrhage is the most common and dangerous complication of childbirth. Postpartum hemorrhage, a type of obstetric hemorrhage, is blood loss (1,000mL with signs and symptoms) that occurs within 24 hours of delivery, according to StatPearls research.[]

It’s initially treated with conservative measures, including uterotonic medications, uterine massage, and balloon tamponade. If these are unsuccessful, surgical interventions are recommended, as per an article published by International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics.[]

A uterine vacuum, the Jada System, is a conservative treatment modality that hit the market in 2022 for postpartum hemorrhage. According to the Medical Design & Outsourcing article, this low-level vacuum encourages normal contraction of the uterus to provide control and treatment of uterine hemorrhage after childbirth.

The device, made from soft silicone, has an intrauterine loop with interior vacuum pores inside a protective shield that evacuate the blood.

"An expandable cervical seal is filled with sterile fluid to create a seal that holds a vacuum within the uterus, and a connector at the end of the device’s tube is attached to a regulated vacuum source. "

Danielle Kirsh, Medical Design & Outsourcing

Targeted therapy for metastatic HER2-low breast cancer 

In August 2022, the FDA approved what is reportedly the first-ever targeted therapy, trastuzumab deruxtecan, for patients with metastasized HER2-low breast cancer that can’t be surgically removed.

“Until now, HER2 targeted therapy has not been successful in treating cancer that is HER2-low,” according to an article published by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. []

"Targeted therapy works by precisely identifying and attacking certain types of cancer cells, without killing normal cells, therefore resulting in fewer side effects."

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

What this means for you

As you treat female patients, it is important to stay up to date on emerging and improved technologies, medical devices, and medications that treat female-specific medical disorders in an effort to improve their longevity and quality of life.

Read Next: What is 'Femtech,' and how is it changing women’s healthcare?
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