Men may soon have another option when it comes to birth control. Apparently, researchers are close to developing male birth control pills along the lines of oral contraception that’s been available for women since the 1960s. Researchers at the University of Washington Medical Centre have completed the first clinical trial of “the pill” for men and found that it appears to be safe and effective.
Male birth control pills under testing
The researchers presented their findings from the clinical trial on the male birth control pills at The Endocrine Society’s annual meeting over the weekend. The technical term for the oral contraceptive for men is dimethandrolone undecanoate, or DMAU, for short. The pill is a combination contraceptive similar to birth control pills used by women, except that it combines the male hormone testosterone with a progestin. It’s taken once per day.
Researchers say attempts to develop male birth control pills have come up against roadblocks for years because the types of testosterone that can be taken orally could cause inflammation in the liver. They also said that these forms of the hormone also tend to clear too fast for the pills to work if taken only once per day, so two doses were needed. However, the male birth control pills that just passed the clinical trial contain the long-chain fatty acid undecanoate, which the researchers said slows down the rate at which the hormone is cleared.
Details on the clinical trial
According to a press release on the clinical trial, 100 men between the ages of 18 and 50 participated in it, and 83 of the men completed the trial. Researchers tested 100mg, 200mg and 400mg capsules in powder and castor oil formulations. Each group also contained five me who received a placebo and an additional 12 to 15 who were given the male birth control pills. All of the men took the pills once per day with food for 28 days. The researchers said in order for the pills to be effective, they must be taken with food.
They tested the men’s blood at the beginning and end of the clinical trial to check cholesterol and hormone levels. In the men who were given the 400mg doses, researchers found a “marked suppression” in the testosterone levels and levels of two hormones needed to produce sperm. The levels of these hormones matched long-term studies on male birth control that was found to be effective in the past, and researchers found “very few subjects reported symptoms consistent with testosterone deficiency or excess.” They believe that DMAU lowers the hormones needed to produce sperm enough to prevent men from getting their partner pregnant.
Male birth controls appear to be safe
All of the men who were taking the male birth control pills gained weight and had reduced HDL cholesterol, which is considered to be the good type of cholesterol. However, the researchers found these issues to be minor. They also found that the men who were taking DMAU passed checks of their kidney and liver functions, suggesting that the pills are safe.
“These promising results are unprecedented in the development of a prototype male pill,” said Dr. Stephanie Page, senior researcher and University of Washington professor in a statement. “Longer term studies are currently under way to confirm that DMAU taken every day blocks sperm production.