There are many forms of birth control on the market today, and most of them are female-centric, including the birth control pill, intrauterine devices (IUDs), the Patch, and the NuvaRing. Now, however, a small study found that a male birth control pill tested successfully, reports Time. In other words, having an oral form of testosterone test safely is unique. In the past, oral forms of testosterone have been linked to possibly causing liver inflammation, the study’s senior investigator, Stephanie Page, M.D., PhD, professor of medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, stated in the Endocrine Society press release about the study. But this was not the case in this study. Of course, if this pill, dimethandrolone undecanoate (DMAU), were to eventually become available on the market, it would be *huge* for birth control as we know it.
“This would be a nice new option for men,” Dr. Michael Krychman, Executive Director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine and co-author of The Sexual Spark: 20 Essential Exercises to Reignite the Passion, tells Bustle. “Choice is exceptionally important, and male involvement and empowerment of the couple to make joint decisions is crucial in the overall birth control paradigm — it’s an opportunity to improve communication among partners. After all, pregnancy prevention and contraception are an essential part of the sexual experience, and a couple must discuss the best choice that fits their lifestyle.”
The male birth control pill study was done among 83 men over a month-long period. During the month, they took a daily oral contraceptive, DMAU, tailor-made for males. According to the Endocrine Society press release announcing the study, the pill “combines activity of an androgen (male hormone) like testosterone, and a progestin.” It goes without saying that a male birth control pill would be a game-changer, and the results of the study were presented this past Sunday, March 18, at ENDO 2018, the Endocrine Society’s 100th annual meeting in Chicago, IL. “DMAU is a major step forward in the development of a once-daily ‘male pill’,” said Dr. 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.”
Why Has There Not Been A Male Birth Control Pill Before?
If you’re wondering why there has not been a male birth control pill yet, good question. Page stated that it is because available oral forms of testosterone may cause liver inflammation. Plus, they clear the body too fast for dosing once per day, and would then require two doses per day. But DMAU is different since it contains undecanoate, a long-chain fatty acid which slows this clearance, she said.
How The Study Was Done
The study took place at the University of Washington Medical Center and at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, CA, led by co-author Christina Wang, M.D. Three different doses of DMAU were tested — 100, 200, and 400 milligrams (mg), and two different formulations inside the capsules (castor oil and powder) among men from 18-50 years old. For the drug to work, DMAU must be taken with food. Most men received and took DMAU daily while five subjects in each dosing group received and took an inactive placebo.
At the 400 mg level, study subjects showed “marked suppression” of levels of their testosterone, as well as two hormones required for sperm production. “Despite having low levels of circulating testosterone, very few subjects reported symptoms consistent with testosterone deficiency or excess,” Page said. In addition, the males passed safety tests, including markers of liver and kidney function. “These promising results are unprecedented in the development of a prototype male pill,” Page said. “Longer term studies are currently under way to confirm that DMAU taken every day blocks sperm production.”
DMAU is being developed by the National Institutes of Health, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which also funded this study. Hopefully, with further studies of DMAU being done, a male birth control pill will be an actual product in the future.
There Are Other Forms Of Male Birth Control In The Works
While a male birth control pill would be revolutionary, there have been some other methods of male birth control in the works, too. For instance, according to MIT Technology Review, after more than 10 years, a topical contraceptive gel will begin testing in a clinical trial starting in April. The gel may prevent the production of sperm, and the trial will last for approximately four years. MIT states that this would be the biggest effort in the U.S. regarding testing a hormonal form of birth control for men.
Vasalgel, too, is another male birth control method. Unlike a vasectomy, Vasalgel is likely more reversible, according to their website. It is a non-hormonal contraceptive wherein a gel is injected into the vas deferens, blocking sperm from swimming through. However, men can get the gel flushed out months or years later if they so choose. The first clinical trial is expected to take place in 2018. Meanwhile, Vasalgel has been tested successfully in rabbits and monkeys.
All in all, any effective and safe form of male birth control would be amazing. In addition, it would put birth control options more in men’s hands, too — literally — which is a whole other story.