Doctors on the cusp of launching the first male contraceptive
With the exception of condoms, most forms of non-permanent contraception are under women’s control. There’s the pill, the patch, the implant, the IUD (hormonal or non-hormonal) and, less popular nowadays, the diaphragm. Now scientists are closer than ever to developing new techniques for male birth control ready for clinical trial.
Yet some pharmaceutical companies are concerned a new birth control method for men has the potential to win as much as half the $10 billion market for female contraceptives worldwide and cut into the $3.2 billion of annual condom sales — businesses dominated by pharmaceutical giants Bayer AG, Pfizer and Merck.
Nevertheless, scientists are pushing ahead — and the momentum and buzz in the field is reflecting fresh optimism.
In the next year or so, researchers hope to start trials in humans using a technique called reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance, which has been under development in India for decades. RISUG works by wedging a thick substance into the vas deferens to prevent sperm from making their way through the pathway to be ejaculated. A few years ago the researchers behind it licensed their technology to an American foundation that used the knowledge to create Vasalgel. Thus far, it has been promising in trials done in rabbits and primates.
Photo courtesy of Jenny Lee Silver.
- Health Care