The journey towards expanding birth control options, especially for men has received a boost after a team of scientists from the US University of Minnesota developed a non-hormonal male oral contraceptive that showed 99 percent efficacy in mice.
The pill did not cause observable side effects and is expected to enter human trials in the third or fourth quarter this year, with hopes of bringing greater balance to the burden of contraception.
Going by the scientific name of YCT529, the pill drastically reduced sperm counts after being administered for four weeks and was 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy in a mating trial.
The researchers monitored weight, appetite, and overall activity, finding no apparent adverse impacts, although mice of course can’t report side effects such as headaches or mood changes.
Four to six weeks after they were taken off the drug, the mice could once more regain their vitality.
“I’m optimistic this will move forward quickly,” envisaging a possible timeline to market in five years or under,” Dr Gunda Georg, the head of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Minnesota.
“There is no guarantee that it will work… but I would really be surprised if we didn’t see an effect in humans as well.”
“Multiple studies showed that men are interested in sharing the responsibility of birth control with their partners, but until now, there have been only two effective options available: condoms or vasectomies,” Abdullah Al Noman, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, who will present the work, told AFP.
Far fewer contraceptive options are available to men, with women typically bearing the brunt of birth control.
Oral contraceptive pills, injectable contraceptives, and intrauterine devices can cause a myriad of side effects, such as weight gain, mood changes, decreased libido, and acne.
“Ever since the female birth control pill was first approved in the 1960s, researchers have been interested in a male equivalent,” he added.
A persistent question about future male contraceptive pills has been whether women will trust men to use them.
But surveys have shown that most women would in fact have faith in their partners, and significant numbers of men have indicated they would be open to the medication.
“Male contraceptives will add to the method mix, providing new options that allow men and women to contribute in whatever way they deem appropriate to contraceptive use,” argues the nonprofit Male Contraceptive Initiative, which engages in fundraising and advocacy.