April 21, 2019

New male contraceptive pill deemed safe after trial breakthrough

28 March 2019, 06:26 | Silvia Roy

Fatigue and headaches were among the mild side effects. Credit Pexels

Fatigue and headaches were among the mild side effects. Credit Pexels

Wang said drug side effects were few mild and included fatigue, acne or headache in four to six men each.

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.

Despite the side effects, however, more than 75% of participants said they are willing to use this method of contraception once the trial was over.

Scientists working on the trial presented their findings at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in New Orleans.

The new research involved 40 healthy men who received either a placebo or the experimental birth control pill, which is for now called 11-beta-MNTDC.

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

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The new pill is being tested by researchers at University of Washington School of Medicine and Los Angeles Biomed Research Institute (LA BioMed), who recruited 40 healthy young men for the phase 1 trial.

"Safe, reversible hormonal male contraception should be available in about 10 years", Wang predicted, adding that based on an earlier survey many men are open to the idea of male birth control, if the effects are reversible.

The idea of male birth control may excite some women who are exhausted of the burden falling on them, and some men who may be itching to take on some responsibility when it comes to contraception.

The drug is a "modified testosterone" that combines the actions of a male hormone called androgen and a progesterone that work together as a contraceptive.

Finally, the pill would be tested in sexually active couples, Wang said.

Five test subjects also noted a small decline in sex drive, while two reported mild erectile dysfunction.

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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.

Depending on the outcome of those tests, it should take about a decade before the male hormonal pill hits the shelves.

"11-beta-MNTDC mimics testosterone through the rest of the body but is not concentrated enough in the testes to support sperm production", Page said.

The drug effects were reversed after the treatment stopped, according to the team.

A second viable option for male hormonal birth control has passed the rigorous human safety tests and and shown promising results, US researchers say. "We are developing two oral drugs in parallel in an attempt to move the [contraceptive medicine] field forward".

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