A male birth control pill has passed the first step in clinical trials, but it could still be a decade before the promising new drug reaches pharmacy shelves, news.com.au reports.
For decades, women have borne the responsibility of controlling their reproductive choices, at least when it comes to temporarily regulating those choices with pharmaceuticals. Men have not had such an option, having instead to rely on “external” means of birth control — a situation that not all men have found ideal.
However, because of the physiological differences between the sexes, a reliable form of birth control for men, one that can be accomplished by taking a pill, has been elusive.
However, a new drug known as 11-beta-MNTDC has since come along, and it shows promise in tackling the longstanding problem of providing a birth control pill for men.
Essentially, the pill works by acting as a synthetic version of the male hormone testosterone, says Dr. Stephanie Page, professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
“11-beta-MNTDC mimics testosterone through the rest of the body but is not concentrated enough in the testes to support sperm production.”
In the first round of clinical trials at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at the University of Washington, the results exceeded all expectations.
40 healthy men were tested, with 14 receiving 200mg of the 11-beta-MNTDC drug, 16 receiving 400mg, and the rest receiving a placebo. The men took the drug over the course of 28 days.
The men who received the drug all experienced lower testosterone levels without a decrease in libido. Side-effects were mild — acne, headaches, and mild fatigue, which are the same problems that bedevil some women who take hormonal birth control. Those side-effects are annoying but may be considered to be manageable. What’s more, those side-effects were easily reversible upon stopping treatment. None of the men who received the drug dropped out of the study before the 28-day trial period was over.
That stands in sharp contrast to previous clinical trials involving hormonal birth control for men.
In a previous trial of a similar drug — an injection — many of the test subjects dropped out before the test was over, primarily due to the side-effects. Some men reported severe muscle pain. Another dropped out because he developed an irregular heartbeat after receiving the injection.
Dr. Page said that she and her team are trying to find the balance between manageable side-effects and effective contraception.
“The goal is to find the compound that has the fewest side effects and is the most effective.”
The early results, while promising, are far from the last word on the new drug’s testing. Getting a new prescription medication to market can take years, and it may be as many as 10 years before any form of male birth control pills reaches pharmacy shelves.