Male birth control pills show promise — and they don’t have any major side effects

Currently, male contraception is limited to vasectomies and condoms. Researchers hope to offer more options in the future.

The study shows that two experimental male birth control pills successfully lower testosterone levels.

A new study presented at ENDO 2022, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, suggests that two experimental male birth control pills appear to be successful in reducing testosterone without causing unacceptable side effects.

The drugs DMAU and 11-MNTDC are categorized as progestogenic androgens. These drugs reduce testosterone, which reduces sperm count. Lowering testosterone levels often has unpleasant side effects. However, the majority of men in the study were willing to continue taking the medication, suggesting that the side effects were acceptable.

“Male birth control options are currently limited to vasectomy and condoms, making them extremely limited compared to female options,” said lead researcher Tamar Jacobsohn of the Contraceptive Development Program at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “The development of an effective, reversible male contraceptive method will improve reproductive opportunities for both men and women, have a major impact on public health by reducing unwanted pregnancies, and allow men to play an increasingly active role in family planning.”

The study consisted of two phase 1 clinical trials in 96 healthy male participants. For 28 days, the men in each study received either two or four oral pills containing the drug or a placebo. Testosterone levels fell below normal after seven days on the active drug. Testosterone levels in the placebo-taking men remained within the normal range.

The study found that 75% of men taking the active drug said they would be willing to use it in the future, compared to 46.4% of men taking a placebo. Men who took the four-tablet dose (400 milligrams) had lower testosterone levels than those who took the two-tablet dose of 200 milligrams. There was no significant difference between the two active treatment groups in terms of satisfaction with the drug or their willingness to use it in the future or recommend it to others.

“The positive experiences of men in clinical trials and the high level of acceptance of this male contraceptive pill should serve to get the public excited about the potential for widespread use of male contraception in the coming decades,” Jacobsohn said.

Meeting: ENDO 2022

The study was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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