Scientists are closer than ever to developing a male pill to rival contraceptives available for women
Honestly, we’ve been hearing about the ‘male pill’ for so long now, we kind of just wrote it off as something that would happen in the year 3000. (And by the year 3000, we kind of hoped that robots would be doing all the reproducing for us.)
But as it turns out, several different kinds of medical male contraception are actually in the final stages of development as we speak. And experts believe a major breakthrough could be close: The Times reports that significant progress has been made by scientists at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy. The team there has tweaked experimental compounds to develop a pill that can make men temporarily infertile and has no side effects.
What’s more, according to research conducted by The Telegraph last year, 52 per cent of men can’t wait to take it.
‘It’s easy to see why so many people would be interested in male contraception given its potential social impact,’ says Aaron Hamlin, the executive director of the Male Contraception Initiative. ‘Just imagine yourself as a teenager, who’s not even finished growing, or as a student with no financial stability. Now throw in parenthood… New forms of male contraception could change lives, relationships and sex for all of us. What better reason to get behind them?’
And while the idea of trusting your partner to take responsibility for something that affects your body is scary – it’s important to remember that pregnancy impacts upon both parties’ futures. After all, if we’re ever going to attain – and maintain – gender equality, then it’s absolutely crucial that we stop considering parenthood as something that matters to women more than men. Plus, there would be nothing to stop you from continuing with your usual form of contraception at the same time to be doubly safe.
But if you’re really concerned about your partner forgetting to take a pill (and, typically, remembering to have sex), there’s some good news too. One of the types of contraception in development is actually an injection that blocks a man’s sperm (but leaves him able to ejaculate) – and this has just passed a major hurdle.
For rabbits, anyway.
In the latest trial, 12 (quite possibly rampant) rabbits were given an injection of Vasagel – a reversible, non-hormonal gel treatment that’s injected into the testes – in varying doses. Straight away, 11 rabbits were found to have no traces of sperm in their ejaculate (azoospermic), with the remaining one initially showing low levels before also becoming azoospermic.
Throughout the year-long trial, all 12 rabbits were unable to impregnate their female counterparts as a result of the treatment – which involved just one injection, lasting 12 months.
‘Results from our study in rabbits were even better than expected,’ said trial leader Dr Donald Waller of Prelabs LLC and professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Now the first clinical trial in men looks likely to launch later this year – with an expectation the product could be available as soon as 2018.
Watch this space…