Seunga (Jasmine) Han, PharmD Candidate
Since over 50 years ago, many female hormonal and non-hormonal contraception options have become available in the market.1 But what about medications for men? Historically, contraceptive medications have always been considered the responsibility of the woman. But as medical research continues and societal expectations change, the demand has been growing for treatment options aimed at men.
The Reality of Male Contraception
Unfortunately, despite over 80 years of research, to this day male contraceptive methods are very limited5 While condoms and the withdrawal method are inexpensive and convenient options for contraception, they’re subject to high failure rates and inappropriate use. Currently, surgical methods available to men include vasectomy, which despite being practically 100% effective, is an invasive and irreversible procedure, and is often avoided by many individuals.1
Why is the field of male contraception falling behind when there are so many options available for women? Among numerous factors contributing to the delay and development of medications for men, a significant one relates to economics. In essence, since female hormonal contraceptives have proven themselves so effective, many pharmaceutical companies don’t see the economic benefits in supporting the research and development of contraceptive options for men.1 In fact, in the early 2000’s many major pharmaceutical companies terminated their research on male contraceptives, leaving only non-profit organizations, and government-funded universities to find a solution.2
Nonetheless, current statistics are beginning to show that a demand exists for male contraceptives. A study performed on men and women of different ages, ethnicities, and relationship status has shown that people of both genders show an interest in more options being made available to men. Interestingly enough, this change in trends may have to do with recent improvements in paternity testing, as well as the financial responsibilities that come with fathering a child.2
Fortunately, despite the difficulties faced by experts in this field of medicine, research is ongoing. Currently, there are studies being done on the use of injectable hormonal contraceptives containing progestogen and testosterone, which has been shown to suppress the production of sperm in men.1 According to evidence from the most recent trials, some preliminary side effects include acne, change in weight, increased libido, and mood disorders. On the other hand, it was shown that the effects of the treatment were reversible from anywhere between 3 to 24 months.1,3
There are also studies surrounding the development of non-hormonal contraceptives as well. As of recently, a clinical trial that will be enrolling men to test the safety and effectiveness of a new innovative male contraceptive device is soon to be underway.1 This device uses a mechanism called “reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance (RISUG),” which is similar to a vasectomy but is reversible. This device contains a molecule that’s dissolved in solution and injected into the vas deferens of the penis (the passageway of sperm upon ejaculation), where it remains in a soft gel-like state. This gel allows water and other substances to pass through but blocks the movement of sperm.1,4 At any time, if the individual wants to restore his ability to have children, he can opt for a second injection. This injection contains a different solution that dissolves the gel molecule, harmlessly removing the block to moving sperm, and restoring fertility. So far, the results of testing this method in animals have been promising.1,4,5
Did you find this interesting? More research and trials are still needed to comprehend the benefits of contraceptives for men, but it’s definitely exciting to see what’s to come ahead. As always, we hope you took away something valuable from this piece. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this article or others, feel free to reach out to us on Instagram, Facebook, or at firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback. We’d love to hear from you.
- Rubin R. Work Progresses on Male Contraceptives, but Hurdles Remain. JAMA: Journal Of The American Medical Association [serial on the Internet]. (2017, Oct 3), [cited April 22, 2018]; 318(13): 1208-1210. Available from: CINAHL Plus with Full Text.
- Dorman E, Bishai D. Demand for male contraception. Expert Review Of Pharmacoeconomics & Outcomes Research [serial online]. October 2012;12(5):605-613. Available from: MEDLINE, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 23, 2018.
- DynaMed Plus
- Waller D, Bolick D, Gamerman G, Lissner E, Premanandan C. Reversibility of Vasalgel™ male contraceptive in a rabbit model. Basic And Clinical Andrology [serial on the Internet]. (2017, Apr 5), [cited April 22, 2018]; 27(1): Available from: Scopus®.
- Michael G. O’Rand, Katherine G. Hamil, Tiffany Adevai, Mary Zelinski. Inhibition of sperm motility in male macaques with EP055, a potential non-hormonal male contraceptive. PLOS ONE, 2018; 13 (4): e0195953 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0195953