London International Group, the world's leading condom manufacturer, is poised to secure US approval for the world's first polyurethane condom. The revolutionary new prophalatic will be much thinner, helping to improve sensitivity. The group is also developing a female condom to rival the much hated Femidom product.
Commenting on LIG's female condom, which is in the early stages of development, Bill Potter, London International's scientific director said: "The concept of a female condom is of great interest to women. They want a safe method of birth control which is under their control. We are developing something with greater aesthetic appeal than Femidom."
Women have criticised Femidom, developed by US group, the Female Health Company, for looking and feeling like a plastic bag.
The new male condom, called Durex Avanti, has double the tensile strength of conventional latex, but is 40 per cent thinner. "This condom is clear, doesn't result in allergies like latex and improves sensitivity. The biggest reason men give for not using latex condoms is that they feel like a Wellington boot," Mr Potter said.
Avanti, which has taken six years to pass the US's stringent drug laws because of its unique material and cost pounds 15m to develop, should go on sale in the US in the next few months and be rolled out in the UK in September. At present it can only be sold to people in the US with latex allergies, and cannot be advertised as an effective contraceptive.
Clearance by the US Food and Drugs Administration is an important breakthrough for LIG. The US condom market is worth around $300m (pounds 190m) a year, more than three times the size of the UK market.
Avanti will cost at least twice the price of conventional condoms in the US. Its launch in the US is an attempt by LIG to maintain its market position - Durex is number two brand in the States with a 20 per cent share, behind Carter Wallace, whose Trojan brand has 60 per cent of the US market.