UK researchers test male contraceptive pill

March 27, 2019

In fertile men, new sperm cells are constantly made in the testicles, but a birth control pill to temporarily stop sperm production has been recently designed. The latest male pill is currently under testing by researchers led by Professor Christina Wang and colleagues from the University of Washington School of Medicine, UK.

Opinion polls have previously suggested many men would consider taking such a pill if it became available, but less societal and commercial will, and distrust from their partners make it difficult. A UK survey by Anglia Ruskin University, found 70 out of 134 women would worry that their male partner would forget to take a pill.

As reported at the Endocrine Society 2019 meeting in New Orleans, US, initial safety tests with 40 men looked promising; levels of hormones required for sperm production dropped greatly among those taking the androgen-based drug, as compared with placebo, returning to normal after the trial.

The existing challenge is ensuring that a hormone-based pill doesn’t blunt sex drive or reduce erections. While five men reported mildly decreased sex drive and another two described mild erectile dysfunction during the tests, sexual activity was not decreased, and no participant stopped taking the pill because of side effects.

But bigger, longer trials were needed to check it would work well enough as a birth control.

The team has also come up with a daily body gel for men – absorbed hormones block natural testosterone production and reduce sperm production, while replacement testosterone in the gel maintains sex drive.

Meanwhile, other scientists have been testing a male contraceptive jab, but stopped trials after reports of mood disorders or depression. There is an option of non-surgical vasectomy as well.

Professor Richard Anderson,from the University of Edinburgh, is leading one of the UK trials that will test a contraceptive body gel on men; he has noted a potential market boon for the pharmaceutical industry as couples would welcome the additional choice.

Category: Education, Features

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