Could there soon be a contraceptive pill for men?

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Could there soon be a contraceptive pill for men?
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Gentlemen, you will finally be able to accept the baton! Imagine! After hundreds of years of being subjected to multiple means of contraception, and exposure to their side effects, women may finally have a reprieve….

A male contraceptive pill: when can we expect it?

It has been long years since researchers started trying to develop a contraceptive pill for men, that didn’t have major side effects. While numerous female pills or other options such as the contraceptive implant regularly cause controversy due to their unpleasant side effects, apparently all the precautions in the world are taken when it comes to men.

The complexity of developing a male pill is primarily due to the fundamental difference between the sexes: men produce millions of sperm every day, and it only takes one to fertilise an egg, while women produce only one egg per month.

A new clinical trial was recently carried out on 83 men, in order to test out a new male contraceptive. It was shown to be a success, with the pill causing very few side effects, notably on male libido. Stephanie Page, a professor of medicine in the University of Washington in Seattle, is one of the co-authors of this clinical trial.

To prevent men from reproducing, several techniques are possible:

  • raise the temperature of the testicles in order to make the sperm ineffective
  • block the canals that release sperm
  • modify sperm structure so that it cannot reach the egg
  • or alter the process of manufacturing sperm so that the body does not produce any more, at least on a temporary basis

It is this final technique that has allowed researchers to create a male contraceptive pill, and their results were presented on the 25th March 2018 at the annual congress of the Endocrine Society in Chicago (ENDO 2018).

No serious side effects!

This oral contraceptive pill is taken once a day. It works for 24 hours, just like with the female pill.

Up until now, trials for a male oral contraceptive pill have led to the risk of liver inflammation, and the contraceptive was eliminated too quickly from the body, meaning it would need to be taken twice a day. In this new trial, the researchers ensured that the liver was protected and that the pill would only need to be taken once a day.

According to the results of this study, carried out on 83 men who were followed up from beginning to the end, very few undesirable effects due to an excess or a lack of testosterone were noted. Three doses of DMAU (100, 200 and 400 milligrams) and two different formulations (using castor oil or powder) were trialed.

With the 400 mg dose, the participants showed a marked suppression in the level of testosterone and the two other hormones necessary for sperm, which proved that the contraceptive was effective.

A very small number of undesirable harmful side effects were reported: mild weight gain and a mild drop in good cholesterol (HDL), but with no effects on overall health.

According to researcher Stephanie Page, “more long term studies are in progress to confirm that DMAU taken once a day, fully blocks the production of sperm”. But even if it is a while off, it seems they are on the right road!


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