APR 06, 2018 7:01 AM PDT

Will There Be a Birth Control Pill for Men?

The birth control pill was a boon to women when it was introduced because it meant that family planning could be handled by those it impacts most, women. For decades there have been some studies and research into a male birth control pill, but good results never appeared.

A shot containing forms of testosterone and progestogen was in clinical trials in late 2016, but the study had to be stopped prematurely because of adverse side effects like decreased libido, depression and mood swings reported by many of the male study participants. A new birth control pill was recently found to be safe and effective and was presented at ENDO 2018, the 100th annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Chicago recently.

The experimental male oral contraceptive is called dimethandrolone undecanoate, DMAU for short, and combines similar hormones to previous studies and is given once daily. Stephanie Page, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle, is the study's senior investigator. She explained, "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."

It's been challenging to come up with an effective male birth control pill because when testosterone is taken orally, it can cause liver inflammation, depending on the dose. Testosterone also clears the body quickly, according to Page, and researchers were not sure if a once a day option would be enough to reduce sperm counts. The new formulation has an added ingredient, undecanoate, which is a long-chain fatty acid. The team working on the drug found that undecanoate slows down the body's clearance of testosterone, making one dose a day sufficient.

The study began with 100 healthy men, ages 18 to 50 years. Scientists at the University of Washington Medical Center Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, CA collaborated on the clinical trials with three different strengths of DMAU (100, 200 and 400 mg) and two different formulations of capsules, one with castor oil and one with an inactive powder. The men were divided into dosage groups, but in each, there were five randomly selected to receive a placebo. The men were advised to take the pill each day, with food for 28 days. Of the original 100 men, 83 completed the study which included blood tests of hormone levels at the beginning and end of the study period as well as cholesterol levels.

The men who took the highest dose of the drug showed "marked suppression" of testosterone and other sperm-producing hormones. Dr. Page reported that even though there were low levels of circulating testosterone, there were very few symptoms related to low T reported by the men in the study. In all of the dosage groups, there was weight gain reported and some decreases in HDL, which is "good cholesterol" but these effects were mild. Blood tests also showed no issues with liver or kidney function. The study researchers are encouraged by the results and are working to establish long-term studies of DMAU. Check out the video for more information on what could be a revolutionary change in birth control.

Sources: Endocrine Society, VOX, CNN, ENDO2018

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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