With so much contraception available for women, we’re all wondering, where are the men’s?
It seems it’s not that simple. And it hasn’t been for years.
For the last decades, various hormonal drugs have been studied for male birth control. Yet none has ever reached the market.
Today, that fact might change.
A new birth control pill has been evaluated for safety, and researchers are positive we may finally have a new form of male contraception some time in the not-so-distant future.
A team of scientists from the Los Angeles BioMed Research Institute has developed a new drug, 11-beta-MNTDC. And it has passed tests of safety and tolerability in healthy men.
Here’s everything you need to know about this new male contraceptive.
Pill aims to decrease sperm production while preserving libido.
According to the study’s lead scientist, Christina Wang, the experimental pill is a modified testosterone that acts both as androgen (male hormone) and a progesterone.
It works similarly as a female contraceptive pill. And their recent study deemed it safe for human use – but not yet for effectiveness.
The drug has, however, produced hormone responses consistent with effective birth control when it was tested on 30 healthy, sexually-active men.
During last month’s Endocrine Society’s annual meeting, the scientists presented the results of their study.
Men who took the drugs had their testosterone levels drop as low as in androgen deficiency. However, they experienced no severe side effects.
Four to six men experienced nothing more than mild fatigue, acne, or headache – symptoms women also get with oral contraceptives. Five men also reported mild decrease in sex drive. Two men had mild erectile dysfunction. However, sexual activity in all men did not decrease and no one stopped taking the drug due to side effects.
However, the drug’s effectiveness proved minimal.
According to co-senior investigator, Stephanie Page:
“11-beta-MNTDC mimics testosterone through the rest of the body but is not concentrated enough in the testes to support sperm production.”
But the drug’s effectiveness on sperm production would take 60 to 90 days. 28 days of treatment is simply too short to see any sperm suppression.
The team plans on longer studies, so we should expect more news ahead.
Several research aims to bring gender-equality to birth control
According to Dr. Wang, it’s important to create options that are gender-equal to both sexes, especially when it comes to birth control.
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“In females you have many, many methods. You have the pill, you have the patch, you have the vaginal ring, you have intrauterine devices, injections. In men there is nothing that is like hormonal contraception. The standard is not equal for the genders.”
The good news is, this is not the only male contraceptive study that is making ground. Although it may take us some time to develop a safe and effective contraceptive for men, there is progress.
The same team in LA Biomed also successfully tested a sister-compound of this drug last year.
They have also found some success with a topical body gel that is now being tested on men from different parts of the world as part of an international trial.
The gel is applied daily on the back and shoulder, where it can be absorbed through the skin. It contains Progestin hormone that blocks natural testosterone production in the testicles, reducing sperm production to low or nonexistent levels. Replacement testosterone in the gel, meanwhile, maintains sex drives and all other functions relying on hormones.
Will we be seeing male contraceptives anytime soon?
Unfortunately not. Final products will not be available on pharmacy selves soon.
Although research has made steps towards making male contraception happen, we’re still far off from a marketable product.
Dr. Wang says:
“Safe, reversible hormonal male contraception should be available in about 10 years,” Wang predicted.”
And a big part of it is a lack of interest from pharmaceutical companies. Investors don’t believe that both sexes would welcome an additional choice on contraception.
Prof Richard Anderson, of the University of Edinburgh, heading the UK gel trials says:
“I think that industry has not been convinced about the potential market. It’s certainly been a long story – part of it is lack of investment.”
Right now, scientists are mainly relying on charitable and academic funding to further their studies.
Allan Pacey, professor of andrology, at the University of Sheffield believes that this slows any hope for a new male contraceptive in the near future.
According to him:
“The development of a male birth control pill, or injection, has had a chequered history without much success so far and so it is good to see that new preparations are being tested.
“The key will be if there is enough pharmaceutical company interest to bring this product to market if their trials are successful.
“Unfortunately, so far, there has been very little pharmaceutical company interest in bringing a male contraceptive pill to the market, for reasons that I don’t fully understand but I suspect are more down to business than science.”