- Scientists made progress in potentially developing a nonhormonal birth control pill for men.
- New research in mice found that an oral male contraceptive was effective at preventing pregnancy, and didn’t produce significant side effects.
- Current birth control options for men include condoms, vasectomy, or abstinence. Human trials for the drug are expected to start later in 2022.
Preliminary research in mice could put scientists one step closer to developing an oral, nonhormonal form of birth control for men.
The research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society and detailed that in mice, a nonhormonal male contraceptive was effective at preventing pregnancy, and didn’t produce obvious side effects.
“Scientists have been trying for decades to develop an effective male oral contraceptive, but there are still no approved pills on the market,” Md Abdullah al Noman, researcher and graduate student at the University of Minnesota said in a press release.
“We wanted to develop a nonhormonal male contraceptive to avoid… side effects.”
The research presented at the American Chemical Society found that the nonhormonal male contraceptive called YCT529 was able to make mice sterile without side effects. The same mice were then able to impregnate other mice four to six weeks after they had stopped receiving YCT529.
Human trials of the drug are expected to take place later in 2022, but the experts who spoke with Healthline caution the same results might not necessarily be seen in humans.
Right now, the birth control options for men include male condoms, vasectomy, or abstinence.
Condoms aren’t always effective and are single-use. Vasectomy is a surgical procedure and reversals of vasectomy can be expensive and not always work.
By contrast, there are numerous birth control options available for women, including the implant, IUD, shot, patch, ring, and pill.
“In women, there are lots of barrier methods because there are more options in the female reproductive tract to either block egg release or sperm transport. In men, you either have to snip sperm at the source with a vasectomy or plug the exit point with a condom,” Dr. Jesse Mills, director of the Men’s Clinic at UCLA told Healthline.
He says part of the reason a male oral contraceptive doesn’t already exist is due to side effects, and motivation from men to take it.
“The main barrier is finding an effective pill with minimal side effects and the enthusiasm for men to take such a pill. In committed relationships, this will work out well and men will likely be up for taking a pill. But, our track record as a gender for assuming birth control responsibility is not stellar. Women overwhelmingly outnumber men for going through surgical sterilization procedures even though a female tubal ligation is far more invasive than a vasectomy,” he said.
Many of the male contraceptive options currently in clinical trials target the male sex hormone called testosterone. This can cause a variety of side effects including depression, weight gain, and an increase in cholesterol levels.
Dr. Michael Eisenberg, a professor of urology and male infertility at Stanford, says part of the challenge in creating an oral contraceptive for men is targeting the right part of the reproductive tract.
“You have to find a target and you want to make it specific to the reproductive tract in some way, shape, or form, and really not have any off-target effects,” he told Healthline.
“The testicle itself is supposed to be an immuno-privileged site. So what that means is sometimes it can be hard to target a medication there specifically… the way the testicle is situated… the way that our body has developed a way to create sperm really limits what can get into that area.”
“Of mice and men and the great divide between them. It’s hard to ask a mouse about moodiness or fatigue or other side effects that may manifest in human studies. I am eager to see what the human trials show,” Mills said.