Is the ‘male PILL’ finally here? Contraceptive taken half an hour before sex prevents 100% of pregnancies, NIH-funded study suggests
- The ‘game-changer’ drug rendered mice infertile within 30 minutes
- It was 100 percent effective at preventing pregnancy within the first two hours
- The drug works by disabling an enzyme which allows sperm to swim to an egg
Researchers are hailing a new male contraceptive pill a ‘game-changer’ following a promising US Government-funded study.
The drug is taken 30 minutes before sex and appears to be 100 percent effective at stopping pregnancies for at least two hours.
It appears to stop men’s sperm swimming towards eggs, or maturing so that it is able to fertilize an egg to create a baby.
While only proven to prevent pregnancy in mice so far, there is good evidence suggesting the contraceptive will work in people.
Currently there is no male version of the Pill, with condoms and vasectomies the only option for male contraception.
Researchers found no negative health impacts when the pill was continuously given to mice for six weeks
That is because it targets an enzyme which is naturally missing in a very small number of men – and those men are infertile.
Adenylyl cyclase (sAC) gives sperm the ability to swim through the female reproductive tract and fertilize an egg.
Researchers hope it could be used by men, last for 16 hours, and then wear off the next day.
This suggests healthy men given a drug to block the enzyme would be made temporarily infertile too.
The study found the drug that inactivated an enzyme called soluble adenylyl cyclase (sAC) left sperm unable to propel themselves forward.
Gel injected into abdomen blocks the release of semen for TWO YEARS
Scientists have come up with another male contraceptive, but it requires injecting a gel into your abdomen.
Using groups of mice, the researchers performed a series of experiments and found that the drug eliminated the mice’s fertility in just 30 minutes, and did not otherwise interfere with their mating behavior.
The male mice still mated with the females, but no pregnancies occurred.
Sperm collected from the female mice remained debilitated.
According to the study, contraceptive effectiveness was found to be at 100 percent in the first two hours, and 91 percent in the first three hours. By 24 hours it had returned to normal levels.
Researchers found no negative health impacts when the drugs were continuously given to the mice for six weeks.
Although the scientists administered these drugs via injection in most experiments, they found that mouse sperm mobility was also reduced by similar levels when taken orally.
Dr Melanie Balbach, a postdoctoral associate, said: ‘Our inhibitor works within 30 minutes to an hour.
‘Every other experimental hormonal or non-hormonal male contraceptive takes weeks to bring sperm count down or render them unable to fertilize eggs.’
She explained that since sAC inhibitors wear off within hours, and men would take it only when, and as often, as needed, they could allow men to make day-to-day decisions about their fertility.
Further studies are needed, but if the drug development and clinical trials are successful, Dr Levin hopes to walk into a pharmacy one day and hear a man request ‘the male pill’.
The findings were published in Nature Communications.
The male contraceptive drug has been touted a ‘game-changer’ by the study’s co-senior authors Dr Jochen Buck and Dr Lonny Levin, professors of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology at the University of Sheffield in the UK, said: ‘The approach described here, to knock out a key enzyme in sperm that is critical for sperm movement, is a really novel idea.
‘The fact that it is able to act – and be reversed – so quickly, is really quite exciting.
‘If the trials on mice can be replicated in humans with the same degree of efficacy, then this could well be the male contraceptive approach we have been looking for.’
WHAT ARE THE CURRENT METHODS OF CONTRACEPTION AVAILABLE TO MEN?
There have been few changes in male contraception compared with the range of options available to women.
Although there’s ongoing research into a male contraceptive pill, there is not one available yet.
At the moment, the two contraceptive methods available to men are:
- Condoms – a barrier form of contraception that stops sperm from reaching and fertilizing an egg
- Vasectomy – a minor, usually permanent, surgical procedure that stops sperm from reaching the semen ejaculated from the penis
The withdrawal method of taking your penis out of your partner’s vagina before ejaculating is not a method of contraception.
This is because sperm can be released before ejaculation and cause pregnancy.
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