Recent clinical tests on a male contraceptive pill have yielded successful results, possibly suggesting that a once-a-day oral contraceptive option might soon join injections and gels among the birth control options for men.
According to a report from the Telegraph, the pill contains a drug known as dimethandrolone undecanoate (DMAU), which differs from other similar drugs before it due to the inclusion of a long-chain fatty acid that allows it to metabolize at a slower pace, meaning it should only be taken once a day instead of twice. This, the researchers stressed, was a “major step forward” in creating a contraceptive pill for men that works as well as its equivalent for women.
A total of 100 healthy men aged 18 to 50 took part in the clinical trials for the male contraceptive, which were conducted by researchers from the University Washington Medical Center, with 83 of them staying on until the end of the study. For the next month, the men were given different amounts of DMAU or a placebo, and were tested for blood hormone and cholesterol levels on the first and last days of the trials.
Once the tests were completed, the researchers found that the men who were given the 400-milligram doses had significantly lower testosterone levels, with two gonadotropins, or hormones used in sperm production, successfully suppressed. According to the Daily Mail, men who took the pill suffered from acne and a slight gain in weight, but with no other physical side effects of note. Liver and kidney function also remained normal during the trials, which marked one of the study’s most important takeaways. However, it was noted that the pill needed to be taken with food in order to work successfully.
“Despite having low levels of circulating testosterone, very few subjects reported symptoms consistent with testosterone deficiency or excess,” said senior investigator Stephanie Page, a professor at the University of Washington’s Department of Medicine, as quoted by Newsweek.
While there may be concerns that a male contraceptive pill wouldn’t work because men would forget to take it, study co-author Dr. Arthi Thirumalai of the University of Washington was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying it would be “quite old-fashioned” to draw such conclusions, as surveys had found that men are also willing to “take responsibility for contraception.”
As it was acknowledged that further studies are needed to gauge whether the new contraceptive for men can truly be effective in actual use, the researchers hope to determine in the future whether the drug affects sperm count for a span of three months. However, some experts who weren’t involved in the study had some critical comments after the research was presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting, ENDO 2018.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Dr. Kevin McEleny of the British Fertility Society admitted that the research was “interesting,” but stressed that the trials, aside from only looking at short term consequences, did not take certain variables into account, such as the participants’ semen quality. Similarly, Sheffield University professor of andrology Allan Pacey remarked that a “large randomized controlled trial” would be necessary to better test the male contraceptive’s safety and efficacy, though he also acknowledged that the results “provide some hope” in the search for an effective oral contraceptive for men.