SEEKING ALTERNATIVES

Male contraception pill passes initial human safety tests

In Summary

• The once-per-day pill contains hormones designed to stop sperm production

• Next step will be to confirm fall in sperm count and determine if it is sufficient

The drug contains a form of progesterone that blocks the production of hormones called LH and FSH that are needed to make sperm
The drug contains a form of progesterone that blocks the production of hormones called LH and FSH that are needed to make sperm
Image: courtesy

Hopes for a male contraceptive pill have increased after a trial appeared to be successful with no significant side-effects.

The once-daily pill contains hormones designed to stop sperm production.

“The drug contains a form of progesterone that blocks the production of hormones called LH and FSH that are needed to make sperm. It also has a testosterone-like compound, or androgen, which balances a drop in the male hormone caused by the progestin,” experts say.

In the month-long study, doctors found that levels of the hormones required for sperm production fell in men who took the capsule daily, suggesting their sperm count had markedly reduced.

The next step will be to confirm the fall and determine if it is sufficient.

Scientists have been searching for a male contraceptive pill for years, testing numerous pills, injection and gels to find an alternative to condoms and vasectomies.

Stephanie Page, a professor of medicine and co-senior investigator on the trial at the University of Washington in Seattle, said, “The goal is to expand contraceptive options and create a menu of choices for men like we have for women."

"We are neglecting a major potential user population with the limited options currently available to men.”

Despite the range of contraceptive pills, patches and injections available for women, and the choice of either condoms or vasectomies for men, the rate of unplanned pregnancies had stagnated at about 40 per cent globally, Page added.

The researchers say it could be a decade before a male pill is in the market, but they believe there is strong demand from couples.

“Men have really limited options when it comes to reversible contraception,” Page said.

“When we ask men about hormonal compounds, about 50 per cent are willing to try this new method. And when you ask their partners, the percentage is even higher.”

Edited by Eliud Kibii