Medicine

We may now have a birth control pill for men

We may now have a birth control pill for men

Progesterone works to block the production of hormones called LH and FSH that are needed for the testes to produce testosterone and sperm, while androgen - a male hormone - helps to counteract the drops in testosterone.

The pill, known as 11-beta-MNTDC, has passed the first round of rigorous human safety tests, with research from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) and the University of Washington showing promising results.

Scientists have been testing possible male contraceptives - including pills, injections and gels - to find an alternative to condoms and vasectomies for years. She presented the team's results at the Endocrine Society's annual conference in New Orleans on Sunday.

To test the drug 40 healthy men, ages 18 to 50 were given the pill in addition to 10 who received a placebo. The pill is called 11-beta-methyl-19-nortestosterone dodecylcarbonate, or 11-beta-MNTDC.

Subjects took the drug or placebo once daily for 28 days.

Unlike women contraceptive which is usually invasive and has side effects of weight gain, the 11-beta-MNTDC will shift the family planning role to men given the less side effects and the fact that they are non invasive. So basically, the same side effects women have to put up with, but I digress.

According to Dr Wang, between four and six men experienced mild side effects like fatigue, acne or headaches.

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Out of the 40, five reported their libido was lower but they all maintained healthy sex lives thereby effectively hampering production of two hormones involved in making sperm. However, none of this affected their sexual activity, which did not decrease.

The drug reportedly mimics the effects of testosterone in other parts of the body which is how it can avoid serious side effects.

The doctors found that levels of the hormones fell in men who took the daily capsules, suggesting that their sperm counts had been noticeably reduced. The drug effects were reversible after stopping treatment, Wang said.

The team suggest that the drug would take at least 60 to 90 days to affect sperm production.

The goal of Phase I trials is to gather initial data on a drug's safety, not to test whether it's effective.

But still, continued tests and increased demand for more options mean that the male pill will most likely become a reality at some point - even if it is later rather than sooner.

Singer agreed that longer trials are key to knowing if this pill will be successful. What will happen next is more long-term study with men (three months or more to analyse sperm production) and then couples who can test it out over a number of years.