Presenting 'The Pill', now for men
Here is every sexually active man's (and woman’s) dream coming true. If researchers are to be believed, we are heading towards male contraceptive pills soon.
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The presentation on male contraceptive pills was received very well at the Endocrine Society conference in New Orleans earlier this week — the reasons would have extended from just the scientific success. After decades of bearing the onus of planning the family, unwanted pregnancies and a whole host of side effects caused by female contraceptive pills, women can now finally heave a huge sigh of relief.
A team of researchers from Los Angeles Biomed Research Institute (LABioMed ) and the University of Washington, led by Dr Christina Wang, a researcher with LABioMed, presented their research that a male birth control pill has passed the early safety tests when participants used it daily for a month — and it looked promising.
According to the research, the pill "greatly" reduced hormones needed for sperm production based on an early study.
40 men took part in the study at LABioMed and the University of Washington in Seattle. 10 took placebos over a 28-day period, while the rest took dosages of the drug, known as 11-beta-MNTDC. All 30 who took the drug reportedly passed the safety tests. 22 of those men reported side effects, including slightly decreased sex drive and headaches — but none so bad that a participant had to stop taking the drug.
The male pill reduces the hormones needed for sperm production, according to the study. (Representative image: Reuters).
"There were no serious adverse events or significant clinical concerns," researchers said in an abstract of the study, funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
The research, unfortunately, does not come without its fair share of uncertainties.
According to Dr Paul Turek, a male fertility specialist and founder of the Turek Clinic in California, the pill's research is "exciting" but not without its unknowns. Turek questions whether the pill actually decreases sperm production or only hormones tied to it. "They do not show any effect on sperm," he says. "We have no idea whether sperm will actually drop. And it needs to drop to zero."
Moreover, in the presentation, researchers said that the drug's effect on sperm production could take up to three months to set in. “That could prove a barrier for users,” opines Dr Bobby Najari, director of male fertility at NYU Langone. “A pill that takes months to kick in feels less "immediately on and off as female contraception," he says. “If users faced a lessened sex drive after only 28 days, imagine the magnitude of side effects that could occur when the pill is used for years,” Najari asks.
The pill will soon be available for men, giving them the choice — to have, not to have and when to have children. (Representational image: AP)
As women — who have either used or known other women who have used the BCPs (birth control pills) — we couldn’t agree more on the side-effects aspect. BCPs for women are known to have all sorts of side effects — ranging from rashes, acne, hair fall, excessive weight gain, breast pain or tenderness, low libidos, to more serious consequences like irregular menstrual cycles, depression, fungal infections and cystitis, migraine and gastrointestinal troubles.
The male contraceptive pills still has some way to go before the final approval. “Safe, reversible hormonal male contraception should be available in about 10 years,” says Wang.
Why the 10-year wait?
The pill's development remains "really early," she says. "More and longer studies are needed to verify the drug's effectiveness in men and, eventually, in sexually active couples."
Well, we are at least a step closer — even if a decade away. It is a leap for mankind if the pills could transverse beyond the shortcomings, medically — and, more important — culturally.