Lots of people are actually looking forward to the era wherein men will be given an opportunity to take contraceptives.
However, there is a very significant challenge that is posed by hormonal birth control. When you try to suppress testosterone level in men who already have low testosterone, to begin with, it might result in potential erectile dysfunction and decreased drive.
Researchers have tried to think of various ways to approach this issue. They didn’t want to limit themselves to just pills. They also looked into topical gels and injections as well. But now, there is a new drug that comes in pill form which has already been evaluated to be safe. However, its effectiveness still remains inconclusive. The initial results of the latest drug – which is referred to as the abbreviation 11-beta-MNTDC – were released on Monday at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.
The study involved 40 healthy men aged 18 to 50-years-old. 10 of those men have also received a placebo. In spite of low testosterone levels of some of the men taking the drug, the abstract states that “no serious adverse events” took place as a result. However, they noted a few cases of fatigue, acne, decreased libido, headache, and mild erectile dysfunction.
This is similar to the drug called DMAU which was worked on by the same research team last year at the very same conference. The drugs are actually composed of synthetic molecules that bear a resemblance to testosterone.
The two drugs are said to be like brother and sister according to one of the leaders of the study, Dr. Christina Wang, the associate director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at the Los Angeles Biomedical Institute. Wang emphasized that in the process of drug development, researchers don’t always just put all eggs into one basket. They throw different things to the wall and they hope that one stick.
Researchers say that the drugs send a signal to the brain that the testosterone levels in the body are adequate and consequentially inhibit the pathways that lead to the production of sperm. Wang had said that the new drug is also meant to copy testosterone’s effects in the other parts of the body – and that could be what leads to the avoidance of major side effects. It might not necessarily stimulate sperm production because the drug itself might not get there through the bloodstream.
Wang has said that she expects people are going to have to wait for around a decade for hormonal male contraception to actually be introduced into the market. There is a lot of research and long-term studies that must be undertaken so as to ensure that sperm production definitely comes to a halt. Her team also found that testosterone levels had fallen over the course of a month while on the drug, but sperm production can span over several months. That’s why it’s going to take much longer studies to show how the drug is actually going to impact sperm production, explained Wang.
An assistant professor and director of the Male Infertility Program at NYU, Dr. Bobby Najari, has expressed his excitement over the research. He added that there is indeed a very big demand for effective contraception that would allow men to take a more active role in family planning and reproductive health. He said that the male contraceptive pill is going to be a much easier and more feasible alternative to the injections that were used in the past.
However, he believes that a decade before it starts hitting store shelves is a little bit optimistic to him. It’s very much expensive to turn this kind of idea into reality. There are very exhaustive and lengthy studies that need to be undertaken in order to ensure the safety and effectiveness of such a contraceptive.
“This promise of a sort of effective oral male contraceptive has been always on the verge of becoming a reality, but I feel like I’ve been hearing that for a long time now,” explained Najari, who played no part in the research at all. “I think it’s going to take at least 10 years, if not longer.”
Wang has said that she has encountered so many couples who are actually looking forward to the availability of a birth control pill for men.