Male birth control pill shows promise in early human trials

Male contraceptive pill on the horizon

Male contraceptive pill on the horizon Credit Paul Grover

The prototype tablet dimethandrolone undecanoate (DMAU) - somewhat similar to the combined female pill that contains estrogen and steroid hormone.

The study's senior investigator, Stephanie Page, M.D., PhD, professor of medicine at the University of Washington is calling it a major step forward in the development of a once-daily "male pill". "Despite testosterone levels that were very low, the men had no symptoms", Page said. "Longer-term studies are now under way to confirm that DMAU taken every day blocks sperm production".

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. The drug is being developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH); the group also funded the study, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

On the other hand, DMAU contraceptive pills for men pose for weight gain and may also decrease the good cholesterol (HDL) blood levels.

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Plus the pills must be taken with food or they won't work. The results of a recent study were presented by researchers at ENDO 2018, the Endocrine Society's 100th annual meeting in Chicago, on Sunday.

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. It also required two doses a day."It's hard enough to do not forget to take a pill once a day", Page said.

There's a new contraceptive in town (well, not now, but possibly soon) and it aims to put the responsibility of safe sex square in the hands of men.

DMAU works by interrupting the signal between the brain and the testicles, Page said.

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At the highest dose tested, 400mg, there was "marked suppression" of the hormones required for sperm production, she said.

One big question has always been whether men would actually take a birth control pill reliably, since they're not the ones who bear the burden of pregnancy. They also found that the men who were taking DMAU passed checks of their kidney and liver functions, suggesting that the pills are safe.

As it was acknowledged that further studies are needed to gauge whether the new contraceptive for men can truly be effective in actual use, the researchers hope to determine in the future whether the drug affects sperm count for a span of three months.

"We're often asked if there was a contraceptive if men would be interested in using it", Page said. She said that studies indicate that men would prefer oral contraception versus injection or gel implant.

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