'99% effective' male contraceptive pill with no side effects will soon be here

A contraceptive pill for men may be on the horizon after one study found it was successful on mice.

The non-hormonal pills, given orally to male mice, prevented female mice from falling pregnant.

And now they could be set for human trials before the end of the year.

‘Scientists have been trying for decades to develop an effective male oral contraceptive, but there are still no approved pills on the market,’ said Abdullah Al Noman, from Minnesota University.

‘Most ongoing clinical trials for male contraceptives target the male sex hormone testosterone — which can lead to obesity, depression and increase in bad cholesterol,’ said Norman, lead author on a research study regarding the male pill.

How the male contraceptive pill works

The male pill works by blocking vitamin A — a crucial nutrient in conception.

The pill was tested on mice and reported to work without any side effects. After four weeks oral administration, it dramatically reduced sperm counts, making it 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.

The mice could also father babies again, four to six weeks after they stopped receiving the medication.

Following the success of the pill in lab rodents, testing in humans will begin in the third or fourth quarter of 2022, said the study’s co-author Professor Gunda Georg, who also heads the lab.

The new male contraceptive pill works by targeting a gene called RAR-* that produces retinoic acid, a form of vitamin A that fuels sperm and embryonic development.

What could this mean for contraception?

Women end up bearing most of the burden of preventing pregnancy with the number of options for female birth control, ranging from pills to patches to intrauterine devices.

But these can be expensive and come with a range of side effects.

The only two options currently available for men are condoms or a vasectomy.

While condoms are are single-use only and prone to failure, vasectomies involve surgical sterilisation which could be expensive to reverse – and not always successful.

According to the NHS, it’s estimated that the success rate of a vasectomy reversal is ‘75% if you have your vasectomy reversed within 3 years, up to 55% after 3 to 8 years and between 40% and 45% after 9 to 14 years.

Having a male contraceptive pill on the market could help to swing some of the responsibility for birth control away from women.

The US team of researchers working on the new pill said that there’s a need for an ‘effective, long-lasting contraceptive similar to the women’s pill’.

The female pill has helped millions of women take control of their fertility and reproductive health since it became available in 1961.

Its convenience and non-invasiveness has provided little incentive for pharmaceutical giants to develop a male equivalent.

Would men actually take a contraceptive pill if it becomes available?

It’s yet to be seen if men will be open to taking such a pill if it does hit the market.

The fact that it its non-hormonal and comes with no side effects is a definite advantage.

Responses to the possibility online have been mixed.

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