Five Types of Birth Control in Men We Probably Can Never Use
A new form of male birth control, Vasalgel, is strikingly close to human trials, but we’ve heard this story before. Let’s take a look at some of the contraceptives for guys who are languishing for lack of funding.
RISUG and Vasalgel
What’s this? Vasalgel is a gel that can be injected (through the scrotum, it only hurts for a second, don’t be a baby) into the vas deferens, preventing sperm from swimming through them. However, it does not stop the fluid, so a man who uses Vasalgel will have ejaculation without sperm. RISUG is a similar product that, according to its creators, destroys rather than blocks sperm. In any case, the gel will last for years and can be canceled with a second injection.
First developed: India 1979
Last Visited: Indian manufacturer RISUG is applying for marketing authorization in India this year. This year, a study in the United States showed that Vasalgel works on monkeys , and human trials can be seen as early as 2018.
Why it’s deadlocked: Our FDA will need to see how RISUG trials are replicated in US tests before approving it here. Vasalgel’s trials are funded by a non-profit organization, since it is clear that the pharmaceutical companies are not interested. They are asking for donations to fund the trials.
Progestogen / Testosterone shot
What’s this? Injection of two hormones every eight weeks (in the buttock). One of them – testosterone – reduces male fertility. And the other, a progestogen, makes testosterone more effective, so you don’t need that much.
Last visit: in a nearly successful trial, the results of which were published in October 2016 . The injections prevented pregnancy by 98 percent. However, five percent of men have not been able to regain their fertility, which is a big disadvantage.
Why it stopped: This trial ended early due to side effects, including mood disorders and depression. Two study clinics were responsible for most of the side effects, suggesting that something strange was happening there. The Ethics Council decided that the study should be discontinued. Despite many negative reviews of male participants crying , 75 percent of them said they liked the results and would be happy to use them further if they could.
What’s this? A chemical from cotton seeds . Fertility declines in men who eat food cooked in cottonseed oil, so scientists investigated whether gossypol could be an effective birth control pill.
First Developed: In China in the 1970s.
Last Visited: China in the 1980s, where researchers were trying to figure out how to reduce the likelihood of fatigue and paralysis, and whether the men in the studies would ever be fertile again.
Why he stopped: The side effects of this drug violated the terms of the deal . About 20 percent of the men in the studies were unable to regain sperm production even two years after stopping the pill. The drug also causes a dangerous lack of potassium in the body, which causes other frightening symptoms.
Tablet “Blank sheets”
What’s this? Drugs can be taken before sex, which prevents the tiny muscles of the vas deferens from releasing semen forward. The pill makers say the orgasm still feels the same, but nothing comes of it. Bonus: This means you are much less likely to transmit HIV * .
First Developed: In the 1980s , based on observations from years of animal research.
Latest observation: Blocking sperm in rams (you know, male sheep) in this study published in 2011 .
Why it stalled: Again, lack of funding. The same nonprofit that conducts the Vasalgel trials is working on it too, but has yet to announce human trials.
Why is it so difficult to develop birth control for men?
For any drug to hit the market, the benefits must outweigh the risks. Women already face the risk of pregnancy, so birth control should be safer than having a baby. Men do not have this kind of compromise, so even a small risk can disqualify treatment.
Plus, we already have other forms of birth control, so men who don’t want to have children have a variety of options. If condoms and female contraceptives had not yet existed, you might argue that male contraceptives would have seemed more of a necessity. But men can simply ask their partners to take a pill, and 52 percent of them don’t even realize that it is good for them too.
Finally, making birth control reversible is not easy. Ideally, a contraceptive method is something that a person can use when they do not want to have children, and stop using when they are ready to start a family. If a pill has a 20 percent chance of making you permanently sterile, what is the likelihood that you will take it?
For all of these reasons, male contraceptives do not look too lucrative, which means that pharmaceutical companies are not interested in investing in them. Nonprofits that seek to bring birth control to the developing world are more focused on providing women with the tools to control their own fertility, which you see makes sense. So male contraception is the second option, and not urgent. This means that it is likely to be meaningless for many years to come.