Birth Control Pills For Men?
“Can guys take birth control pills?” That is a question we hear from guys more often than you would think.
For most of the last century, birth control options for men have been pretty limited. Basically you had the choice between getting a vasectomy – and wearing a condom. Advancements in medicine and science have made it possible that in the future, men could instead take a birth control pill to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Though birth control pills have been available to women for nearly 60 years, there’s nothing equivalent on the pharmacy shelves for men. But that may change soon. Recently a team of scientists announced that its unique take on a male birth control pill passed human safety tests in a 28-day trial without any participants dropping out from side effects — a problem that has stymied other male birth control attempts.
The fact that a birth control pill for men has passed initial human safety tests is a major breakthrough, experts at a leading medical conference have heard. The once-daily pill contains hormones designed to stop sperm production. It would be a welcome addition to condoms or vasectomy – the only options currently available to men.
How Would A Birth Control Pill For Men Work?
The researchers attribute their successful trial to the active agent in the pill, which is two hormones in one. Part progestin and part modified testosterone, the hybrid molecule means that the consumer always has matching levels of the hormones in the body.
The coordination of these two hormones can help dodge low sex drive or other health problems that modified hormone levels can create, said Dr. Christina Wang, the associate director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Los Angeles Biomed Research Institute (LA BioMed). Wang worked on the trial with researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.
When the two hormones are separate, the body processes identical doses at different speeds, Wang told Live Science. Progestin stops sperm production, but it also decreases natural testosterone levels; and if testosterone drops too low, the odds of blood clots, depression and other problems rise.
How Soon Could “The Pill” For Men Be Available?
A final product may still be years in the making, but researchers have deemed the medications safe and tolerable for healthy men.
The results of one study were presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in March 2019.
The drug, 11-beta-MNTDC, may reduce the production of sperm without decreasing a man’s libido. The drug behaves like testosterone, the hormone that drives sexual desire and gives men some of their masculine characteristics. But it does not trigger sperm production in the testes.
Forty healthy men participated in the 28-day study. Each day, 14 men took 200 mg of the 11-beta-MNTDC drug, and 16 men took 400 mg. The remaining 10 men took a placebo pill.
Circulating testosterone levels were reduced in men who took 11-beta-MNTDC, but no severe side effects were reported. The most common side effects were fatigue, acne, headache, small decreases in sex drive, and mild erectile dysfunction. However, none of the side effects stopped men from having sex, and none of the men dropped out of the study because of side effects.
Men who took the drug also had lower levels of hormones needed for sperm production. After treatment, effects were reversed. In other words, after stopping the drug, these hormonal levels returned to normal.
Birth Control For Men – What The Future Holds
While the results are encouraging, it is much too early to expect male birth control pills at the local pharmacy. So far, trials have determined that the drug is safe, but longer trials are needed to investigate how effective it is.
“Safe, reversible hormonal male contraception should be available in about 10 years,” said Dr. Christina Wang, a co-senior investigator, in a press release.
11-beta-MNTDC isn’t the only prospective male birth control pill currently under study. In September 2018, the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism published a study on dimethandrolone undecanoate (DMAU). Researchers found that DMAU was well-tolerated in a 28-day study of 82 healthy men. They suggested further research to see whether DMAU would suppress sperm production.
“The goal is to find the compound that has the fewest side effects and is the most effective,” said co-senior-investigator Dr. Stephanie Page.
“We are developing two oral drugs in parallel in an attempt to move the [contraceptive medicine] field forward,” Dr. Page added.
Birth Control Pills For Men – Why Should You Care?
A hormonal contraceptive for men would provide a dramatic new option for men around the world. And the potential reasons for men to be interested are many. For single men, it could mean taking more control and autonomy over their sex life. For couples, it offers new options to share responsibility.
“There are lots of men who feel like they want to be part of it. They want to be a contributor. They want to share the burden of contraception. So, lots of men are up for it, so to speak,” Page said.
Male contraception also offers a practical solution to a problem that’s shown no signs of going away: unintended pregnancy. In the United States, almost half of pregnancies are unplanned.
“This is the real issue in the U.S. and around the world,” Singer said.
“Despite the fact that there are a number of options available to women… we still have a problem. Unplanned pregnancy has an enormous health, emotional, and economic burden for the globe. There’s clearly an unmet need,” Page said.
Still, options for men are likely years away. Before any of the current drugs go to market, they would first have to undergo large-scale rigorous testing. Contraceptives also have a longer timeline than some other drugs because they have to work continually. That means these drugs need to be used for a year or two before they can be proven effective. In any event, the option of a birth control pill for men should be exciting news for the many guys who don’t like condoms – but aren’t yet ready to consider a vasectomy.
“A male birth control pill has just passed human safety tests”
(March 26, 2019)
The Endocrine Society
“Second potential male birth control pill passes human safety tests”
(March 25, 2019)
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
“Effects of 28 Days of Oral Dimethandrolone Undecanoate in Healthy Men: A Prototype Male Pill”
(Full-text. Published: September 24, 2018)
Lansdowne, Laura Elizabeth
“Developing a Male Birth Control Pill”
(June 10, 2019)
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Bakare, Tolulope, MD
“‘The pill’ for guys: Male birth control option passes safety tests”
(April 30, 2019)