Does the male contraceptive pill show promise?

Does the male contraceptive pill show promise?

Researchers have said that a new male contraceptive pill is showing positive signs when being used daily for a month, with hormone responses consistent with effective contraception.

Like the pill for women, the male contraceptive pill, called dimethandrolone undecanoate or DMAU, combines activity of an androgen (male hormone) like testosterone and a progestin, which is taken once a day.

The results of a new study, which comprised 83 men, will be presented at ENDO 2018, the Endocrine Society’s 100th annual meeting, in Chicago, US.

Stephanie Page, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle, said: “DMAU is a major step forward in the development of a once-daily ‘male pill’.

“Many men say they would prefer a daily pill as a reversible contraceptive, rather than long-acting injections or topical gels, which are also in development.”

The progression towards male birth control

According to Page, the progression towards the male birth control pill has been hampered because available oral forms of testosterone may cause liver inflammation and clear the body too quickly for once a day dosage, meaning two are required daily.

However, DMAU, which is being developed by the National Institutes of Health, contains undecanoate, a long-chain fatty acid which slows this clearance.

What did the study investigate?

Investigators at the University of Washington Medical Center and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, tested three different doses of DMAU (100, 200 and 400mg) and two different formulations inside the capsules (castor oil and powder).

Each dose group included five subjects who were randomly assigned to receive an inactive placebo and another 12-15 men who received DMAU.

The subjects took the drug or placebo once a day for 28 days with food. DMAU needs to be taken with food to be effective, Page noted.

Of the 100 healthy men chosen for the study, a total of 83 completed it, which included giving blood samples, cholesterol and hormone testing.

What were the results?

It was found that at the highest dosage of DMAU, 400mg, the subjects showed “marked suppression” of levels of their testosterone and two hormones required for sperm production.

Page added: “Despite having low levels of circulating testosterone, very few subjects reported symptoms consistent with testosterone deficiency or excess.”

All groups taking DMAU did have weight gain and decreases in HDL (‘good’) cholesterol, both of which Page said were mild. All subjects passed safety tests, including markers of liver and kidney function.

“These promising results are unprecedented in the development of a prototype male pill,” Page concluded.

“Longer term studies are currently under way to confirm that DMAU taken every day blocks sperm production.”

Source: Endocrine Society

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