Male contraceptive pill passes initial stages of testing

Laura Hampson

A male contraceptive pill is closer to reality, with scientists revealing the capsule has passed initial stages of testing.

A month-long study of 40 male participants was conducted by the University of Washington, where users took a once-daily capsule to try and suppress the levels of hormones that contribute to the production of sperm.

The researchers found that hormone levels in the men taking the pill fell, with sperm counts notably reduced.

The initial study wanted to look at the safety of the pill and now a further, more longer-term study will take place to confirm the declines of the sperm and if it's sustainable.

The catch? The research team have found that the pill would take at least 60 to 90 days to affect sperm production and predict it could take a decade to become available to the general public.

Reported side effects of the pill included fatigue, acne and headaches with five men also reporting a mildly decreased sex drive and two men describing mild erectile dysfunction.

Yet, this is a revolutionary breakthrough in contraception. Before now, the only contraception alternatives for men have been condoms or a vasectomy – if neither were favourable then this means that the burden of contraception fell solely on the woman’s shoulders.

Dr. Christina Wang, a lead researcher at LA BioMed and one of the team members working on the new pill’s development, said in a statement: "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 new pill contains a mix of testosterone and progestin (a synthetic version of the female hormone progesterone) and it must be taken each day without a break to keep the sperm count low.

Stephanie Page, an investigator on the University of Washington trial, 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.”

Wang added: “Men have really limited options when it comes to reversible contraception

“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.”