Male birth control pill safe, the new contraceptive for men.
A second male birth control pill showed no safety concerns in preliminary testing, suggesting that a new form of contraception may be available far down the road.
The new pill, which works similarly to female contraception, passed initial safety tests and produced hormone responses consistent with effective birth control in the men studied, according to research presented by the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute and the University of Washington at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting, TIME reports.
The new research involved 40 healthy men who received either a placebo or the experimental birth control pill, which is, for now, called 11-beta-MNTDC.
The purpose of phase one trials is to gather initial data on a drug’s safety, not to test whether it’s effective. In fact, the duration of the trial was insufficient to prove the pill’s effectiveness as a contraceptive — that would take 60 to 90 days of use, the researchers said. Instead, the hormone changes seen in the volunteers were “consistent with effective contraception,” according to a news release.
Among the men who took the birth control pill, average circulating testosterone levels dropped as low as that which occurs in a state of androgen (male hormone) deficiency. But the men did not experience any severe side effects, such as major loss of libido, as can occur in a typical state of androgen deficiency. Any side effects that did occur were few and mild, and included fatigue, acne or headache, researchers reported.
Recently, there have been some promising advances in male birth control. Researchers from LA BioMed and the University of Washington previously developed a separate male birth control pill that is a “sister compound” to the new option; it, too, has passed preliminary safety and efficacy tests. There’s also some evidence that similar compounds could act as long-lasting male birth control when injected, Wang says. A topical contraceptive gel, which men would apply daily to their shoulders and arms, is even further along in studies.
The results are promising, but Wang emphasizes that much more research is needed. Wang and her team will first need to conduct similar but longer-term studies in men, then eventually recruit thousands of couples willing to test the drug for a few years to ensure it is safe and effective, she says.
“Safe, reversible hormonal male contraception should be available in about 10 years,” Wang says.
“Contraception is for healthy, younger couples,” she adds. “We have to make sure, 100 percent sure, that it’s not going to harm the person.”
Because the findings were presented at a media meeting, they should also be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.