Described as a “major step forward” by scientists, a male contraceptive pill has been developed that is safe, effective — and does not harm sex drive.
Up until very recently, medical science did not focus its funding and research toward finding hormonal birth control solutions geared toward the male reproductive system. However, thanks to a recent scienfic trial from the University of Washington Medical Centre, significant progress has been made in developing such a method, as reported in The Telegraph last week.
Previous efforts to create a once-daily pill that mimics a female hormonal contraceptive have faltered due to the fact that men tend to metabolise and clear out the delivered hormones too quickly to be effective. This has left us with condoms (first invented in 1855) as the only form of temporary male contraception. But now, a new drug called dimethandrolone undecanoate (DMAU) has been developed that includes a long-chain fatty acid which slows down this hormonal clearance.
Much like “the pill” for women, this experimental oral contraceptive also combines activity of an androgen (a male hormone such as testosterone) and a progestin. The investigators tested three dose levels of DMAU — 100, 200, and 400mg — on 100 healthy men between the ages of 18 to 50 (83 of whom completed the study). They men gave blood samples for hormone and cholesterol testing on the first and last days of the study. At the highest dose of DMAU tested, 400 mg, the subjects showed “marked suppression” of levels of their testosterone and two hormones required for sperm production. However, the results showed that the pill worked only if taken with food.
“Despite having low levels of circulating testosterone, very few subjects reported symptoms consistent with testosterone deficiency or excess," said Professor Stephanie Page, senior investigator on the study.
“These promising results are unprecedented in the development of a prototype male pill," said Page. All groups taking DMAU experienced some weight gain, as well decreases in HDL (“good") cholesterol, but all subjects passed their safety tests, including markers of liver and kidney function.
“DMAU is a major step forward in the development of a once-daily 'male pill'," said Professor Page. “Many men say they would prefer a daily pill as a reversible contraceptive, rather than long-acting injections or topical gels, which are also in development."
Though the safety and effectiveness of this type of contraception for trans women receiving hormones treatments is not yet known, it does open new birth control possibilities for this population as well. Perhaps this science could eventually lead to new birth control options for trans men and women, whose needs in this area are often overlooked.
All in all, this development is certainly exciting news for both men and women because now — in addition to PrEP (an HIV prevention pill) and TasP (controlling one’s HIV to untransmittable levels) — there is yet another means of having safe, condom-free sex!