Contraceptive methods have existed and been utilized since the BC era, leading to the first ever oral birth control pill for women being FDA approved in 1960 and the first approved intrauterine devices (IUDs) 8 years later. Today, female contraceptives come in a variety of methods including oral pills, IUDs, implants, rings, injectables, and so on. With so many options for delivering birth control, where’s our male contraceptive methods?

In just the end of March 2019, the Endocrine Society presented Phase 1 study results of a potential male birth control method being researched by LA BioMed and the University of Washington.  The experimental male oral contraceptive, called 11-beta-MNTDC, just passed human safety tests after 30 healthy men received the drug for 4 weeks. At the end of the four weeks: all safety tests were passed, and the side effects reported were mild. However, the short-day window was not long enough to test the drug’s effectiveness; this phase is the next to come since human safety was passed.

Still, Christina Wang, M.D., Associate Director, Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Los Angeles Biomed Research Institute proposes a conservative timeline. She predicts “Safe, reversible hormonal male contraception should be available in about 10 years”. So, what’s the wait?

Mainly, it’s complexity. Potential for reproduction in a typical female body occurs monthly, while male contraceptives will have to combat the never-ending production of sperm. To regulate and control this process is much harder when dealing with millions of constantly produced cells as opposed to a generally well-known monthly cycle. In addition, monitoring effectiveness is much harder as you can imagine! A failure with female contraceptives is pregnancy and an equivalent measurement for this potential drug does not exist. The lack of any type of reproductive cycle in the typical male body creates a need for a more complex mechanism and a much harder path to testing and tracking the effectiveness of these potential drugs. And last but not least, there is the social barrier of an unenthusiastic government funding backing these types of research. The government and pharmaceutical companies alike shied away from male contraceptives- suspicious of low demand/interest. However, studies over the past decade or two have shown that males both in and not-in committed relationships are open to using their own contraceptives.

So male contraceptives… are they on their way? Yes! Alongside this researched hormonal treatment is the idea of reversible vasectomies, planned to hit clinical trials in 2020.

Are they right around the corner? Unfortunately not, but we will certainly see more and more about them in the next few years.

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