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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 January, 2004, 15:26 GMT
Durex withdraws condom lubricant
Condoms play a vital role in preventing disease
The makers of Durex have ceased production of condoms containing a controversial lubricant amid doubts about its ability to prevent infection.

The lubricant, nonoxynol-9 (N-9), was originally thought to provide a high level of protection against infections such as HIV.

However, recent studies have shown that it may actually increase the risk.

Concerns had been raised by the World Health Organization, UNAIDS and the US Centres for Disease Control.

The UK National Aids Trust, which has campaigned for the removal of N-9 from condoms, applauded the decision.

Keith Winestein, campaigns manager, said: "This is a very welcome decision.

"A raft of agencies and organisations agree that N-9 is harmful and it needs to be removed from any products that might put the consumer at risk."

Call on the government

Mr Winestein said the government should re-double its efforts to ensure N-9 is removed from all condoms manufactured in the UK, as well as those sent overseas.

N-9, originally developed as a detergent, has been used for nearly 50 years as a vaginal cream that rapidly kills sperm cells.

Research indicated that N-9 can act to break up or irritate the cell lining, or epithelium, of the rectum and the vagina - the first line of defence against HIV and other diseases.

Such irritation can make it easier for a virus or other infective organism to invade.

The danger in anal sex is especially significant because the rectum has only a single-cell wall. The vagina has a wall that is about 40 cells thick.

When it comes to condoms, many of which are treated with N-9 inside and out, there is more HIV risk if the condom slips, breaks or is misused.

But there is also possible danger of N-9 breakdown of the anal or vaginal epithelium whether the condom breaks or not.

Durex condoms are manufactured by SSL International Plc.

In a statement, the company said: "SSL is anticipating a material reduction in demand for spermicidally-lubricated condoms following a recent WHO report which questioned the level of additional protection provided by such condoms when compared to non-spermicidally lubricated condoms.

"In light of this, SSL decided to discontinue using the spermicide N9 in our condom manufacturing process.

"As a result of this action, SSL will stop offering spermicidally lubricated condoms for sale and distribution."

Other companies, such as Johnson and Johnson, have already ceased making products containing N-9.

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