There could soon be an addition to the scarce birth control options available to men. Scientists have tested a new contraceptive pill in mice and found it to be 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.
Safety is key
Presenting their findings at the American Chemical Society’s 2022 conference on Tuesday, scientists who developed the non-hormonal pill said it had no side effects when tested in mice.
Apart from condoms and vasectomies - a form of surgical male sterilization that can be reversed but is largely permanent - women have to bear the major responsibility of avoiding pregnancies.
The myriad of options available to women include IUDs, patches and pills that cause hormonal changes, with many reporting experiencing depression, low sex-drive, weight gain and suicidal thoughts.
Numerous attempts to develop an effective and safe male contraceptive failed to make it past human trials. Most of the roadblocks were hormonal in nature, with participants gaining weight, falling into depression (just as in the case of the pill for women) and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
One of the scientists leading this new research, Abdullah al Noman at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said:
Safety is very important for birth control pills because people are not taking it for a disease, so they are less tolerant of side effects.
Testing the drug on male mice over a period of four weeks, researchers observed a drop in semen production. Between four and six months after they were taken off the medication, their semen count returned to normal with no side effects. Noman added:
Men are less willing to take a birth control pill that has significant side effects. That’s why we are targeting a non-hormonal pathway to developing a male birth control pill.
The scientists are hoping to run tests in male humans by the second half of the year.