An effective male contraceptive pill could soon be on the horizon, with a new study demonstrating that two experimental drugs were well-tolerated in men, with 75% saying they would use the medications.
Performed by a team at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the novel research discovered that two male contraceptive pill candidates successfully lowered testosterone levels without causing any unacceptable side effects to the patient.
The breakthrough may potentially transform contraceptive options, which are currently limited to vasectomy and condoms for men, with the burden of birth control being disproportionately carried by women.
The findings of the study will be revealed at ENDO 2022, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting.
Advancing male birth control
The two male contraceptive pill candidates are called DMAU and 11β-MNTDC. These medications belong to a class of drugs called progestogenic androgens that suppress testosterone, which lowers sperm count and ultimately mitigates male fertility.
Previous research suggested that lowering testosterone levels in men can result in a range of nasty side effects; however, in the new study, the majority of the men were willing to continue using the drugs, highlighting that the side effects were acceptable.
Tamar Jacobsohn, the leader of the research of the Contraceptive Development Program at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, commented: “Male contraception options are currently restricted to vasectomy and condoms, and are thus extremely limited as compared to female options.
“Development of an effective, reversible male contraceptive pill will improve reproductive options for men and women, have a major impact on public health by decreasing unintended pregnancy, and allow men to have an increasingly active role in family planning.”
Analysing male contraceptive pill performance
For their investigation, the team performed two Phase 1 clinical trials, including 96 healthy male participants. In both trials, the men were randomly assigned to receive two or four pills of a contraceptive drug or a placebo for 28 days.
After one week of using the contraceptive pill, the participant’s testosterone levels reduced below the normal range. The men who were administered the placebo maintained normal testosterone levels.
The results identified that 75% of the men who took a contraceptive pill would be willing to use the medication in the future, compared to 46.4% who took a placebo. The participants who took the four-pill daily dose (400 milligrams) had lower testosterone levels than those taking the two-pill (200-milligram) dose. However, there were no significant differences between the two treatment groups in terms of satisfaction with the drug or willingness to use it again or recommend it to others.
Jacobsohn concluded: “Men’s positive experiences in clinical trials and high ratings of acceptability for this male pill should serve to excite the public about male birth control being potentially widely available in the coming decades.”