THE hunt for the elusive male contraceptive pill has been long and fraught. While the female pill has been around for almost 70 years now, efforts to develop a male version have stalled after negative side effects and health risks were discovered at trials.
But this looks like it’s about to change with a new study showing the latest efforts are both safe and effective.
According to Science Daily, the new pill is known by the chemical name dimethandrolone undecanoate, or DMAU. Like most female contraceptive pills, it contains a combination of hormones – an androgen such as testosterone, and a progestin.
The study, funded by the US Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, included 100 healthy men, ages 18 to 50 years. Eighty-three of these completed a month-long course of the newly developed pill, providing blood samples for hormone and cholesterol testing at the beginning and end.
At the highest dose tested, 400mg, there was “marked suppression” of the hormones required for sperm production, said the study’s senior investigator and professor of medicine at the University of Washington, Dr Stephanie Page.
While it’s still early days, the results are promising and longer-term safety tests are now underway.
As we stand on the brink of a possible new sexual revolution, here are the key things you need to know about the male contraceptive pill:
- One a day keeps the babies away
The newly developed DMAU is for daily use, much the same as the standard female contraceptive. Previous trials have required two doses each day due to the hormones being cleared from the body too quickly. DMAU, however, contains undecanoate, a long-chain fatty acid, which slows this clearance. It must be taken with food, however, to be effective.
- It’s quick and easy to reverse
The efforts of scientists have been focused on developing a daily oral contraceptive that can be quickly reversed, as this is the form most men prefer, according to Page.
While other long-acting injections or topical gels are also in development, the simple, reversible “male pill” is the unicorn that’s being sought out.
They actually worked on a male contraceptive but it was discontinued bc it made men moody and sensitive…. almost like… birth control for women https://t.co/pb8Lgbf3hg
— em (@ewmily1) March 13, 2018
- It’s safe
While previous forms of male oral contraception have been linked to liver inflammation, these early rounds of testing show that DMAU doesn’t induce the same problem. All of the 83 subjects in the study passed safety tests, including markers of liver and kidney function.
As this was a trial experiment, however, longer-term studies are currently underway to confirm the results.
- You might gain a few pounds
As part of the study, investigators tested three different doses of DMAU on separate test groups. Results showed that all of these groups experienced weight gain and decreases in HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Page did note, however, that these were mild.
Similar side effects are commonly experienced with the female pill.
- It doesn’t affect your sex drive
Low testosterone levels can lead to loss of sex drive and fatigue, but most of those on the trial did not appear to suffer. “Despite having low levels of circulating testosterone, very few subjects reported symptoms consistent with testosterone deficiency or excess,” Page said.