Male birth control passes safety trials
TESTING of a new male birth control pill has revealed we are a step closer to producing effective oral contraception for men.
The pill, known as 11-beta-MNTDC, has passed the first round of rigorous human safety tests, with research from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) and the University of Washington showing promising results.
Unlike other male contraceptives that have been tested, this drug managed to safely reduce hormones required for sperm reduction without drastically affecting men's sex drives or sexual performance.
"Our results suggest that this pill, which combines two hormonal activities in one, will decrease sperm production while preserving libido," Dr Christina Wang from LA BioMed said in a report.
While these results are a great breakthrough, it is still early days for the drug, which has not yet been submitted for approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
It could still be 10 years before we see male oral contraception hitting our shelves.
The initial study involved 40 healthy men, with 14 receiving 200mg of the 11-beta-MNTDC drug, 16 receiving 400mg, and the rest receiving a placebo.
The doses were taken daily with food for 28 days.
On average, the men receiving doses of the drug experienced a drop in testosterone levels without experiencing any severe side effects.
According to Dr Wang, between four and six men experienced mild side effects like fatigue, acne or headaches. These are common effects experienced by women who take the contraceptive pill.
Five men reported mildly decreased sex drive, and two men described mild erectile dysfunction, but sexual activity was not decreased, she said. Again, some women also experience decreased sex drives as a result of the pill.
Throughout the trial, no participant stopped taking the drug because of the side effects.
This male contraceptive works by acting as a synthetic form of testosterone, professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Stephanie Page said.
"11-beta-MNTDC mimics testosterone through the rest of the body but is not concentrated enough in the testes to support sperm production," Dr Page said.
The study also found the effects of the drug were reversible after stopping treatment.
The outcomes of this trial were vastly different to a male birth control trial in 2016 that had to stop enrolling volunteers because so many men experienced side effects.
Researchers were testing an injection that lowered men's sperm count, but they had to stop bringing in new volunteers earlier than expected due to participants reporting muscle pain and acne. One participant also claimed to have experienced an irregular heartbeat after he stopped receiving the injections.
In the end, 20 participants dropped out of the study because of the side effects. However, it was concluded that almost 39 per cent of the 1491 side effects reported were unrelated to the injections.
"The goal is to find the compound that has the fewest side effects and is the most effective," Dr Page said.
"We are developing two oral drugs in parallel in an attempt to move the (contraceptive medicine) field forward."