APRIL 2021 POWER WOMXN
We’re committed to uplifting the amazing womxn in tech who are working to ensure that everyone – no matter who they are or where they live – can achieve reproductive well-being. Brought to you by Pandia Health, we are pleased to launch the Power Womxn series in which we will feature womxn FemTech leaders and founders who are out to change the world!
This month’s Power Womxn is Saundra Pelletier, CEO, Evofem Biosciences.
What inspired you to start/lead your company?
My mother was my biggest mentor because she was the classic example of a woman who did not have a runway, and she did not have a mentor and instead of a glass ceiling she was kept in a room with no windows.
Because of her, I realized my life’s mission was to become a warrior for women’s empowerment and one key factor to owning that power is for women to be able to decide and control if, when, and how many children they have.
Consequently, I founded Evofem Biosciences, and in September 2020 we successfully launched Phexxi® (lactic acid, citric acid and potassium bitartrate), the only FDA-approved, non-hormonal, on-demand contraceptive gel, used up to an hour before sex.
How does your work help give people the tools to achieve reproductive well-being?
There are 78 million women in the US and 48 million are of reproductive age. There are also 18 different categories of contraception currently available, yet half of all pregnancies are still unplanned. There is clearly a significant unmet need for women who are not satisfied with current birth control options.
The most effective birth control is one that is used consistently and correctly. Phexxi is an option for women who do not want hormones, who do not want to take a pill every day, who do not want to have a device implanted, or who do not want to rely on a man to use a condom.
Phexxi can also be an option for female cancer patients and survivors because for certain types of cancer, hormonal birth control can increase cancer risk and cannot be used.
How would you define success for your company and for the fem tech space, more generally?
Evofem Biosciences will continue to expand our offerings to support women’s sexual and reproductive health. We are currently enrolling patients in a Phase 3 clinical trial evaluating Evofem’s lead investigational product candidate, EVO100, for the prevention of urogenital transmission of both chlamydia and gonorrhea in women. We look forward to completing the EVOGUARD study at the end of 2021 and reporting top-line data in mid-2022.
How do you see the FemTech space changing in the next 5 years? What are you looking forward to?
We are in an era of empowered women. They demand more for themselves instead of accepting the role of mediator and pleaser. Due to this, effective direct-to-consumer (DTC) campaigns are more important than ever. We launched our “Get Phexxi” DTC campaign in February 2021 and the results have been remarkable. We have seen a 362% increase in direct searches for Phexxi since our TV commercial first aired on Valentine’s Day; more than 173 million views across online and television; and this resulted in a 1,258% increase in telehealth searches. And the tally continues: more than 2,400 Phexxi units were dispensed in February 2021, up 30% from the month before; accelerating retail demand drove 73% increase in ex-factory sales month-over-month; and ex-factory sales year-to-date 2021 through mid-March have exceeded FY 2020 levels.
Telemedicine will also continue to be a huge opportunity within healthcare in the next 5 years. We launched Phexxi with a telemedicine option, the Phexxi Concierge Experience, based on our research and knowledge that many women, especially working women and mothers, prefer not going for an in-office doctor’s visit during the COVID-19 pandemic. The response to our telehealth platform has been significant, with more than 800 women visiting the Phexxi telehealth platform in February alone.
What advice do you give other womxn looking to get into FemTech?
It is not who we think we are that holds us back, it is who we think we are not. We need more women in FemTech. We know what women need and want. Find the unmet need and conduct due diligence to identify the exact message that resonates with that specific audience and assess the market potential. Just because a need exists does not mean your solution will be attractive to the target audience. You need to be negatively polarized when you evaluate the opportunity so you can address pitfalls and not be caught off guard.
And remember that women are gifted with emotional intelligence. Use that ability to connect and understand others – use it to your advantage and build alliances with both like-minded and opposite-minded people.
For more information about Phexxi, talk to your health care provider and review the full Product Information. If you have had a history of urinary tract infections that keep coming back or other urinary tract problems, you should not use Phexxi. The most common side effects were vaginal burning & itching, yeast infection, urinary tract infection, vaginal area discomfort, bacterial vaginosis, vaginal discharge, genital discomfort (including in male partners) and pain while urinating. Phexxi does not protect against any sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Contact your healthcare provider if you are experiencing severe genital irritation or discomfort or urinary tract symptoms.