Scientists have been on a mission to develop a safe version of the birth control pill for men for years, and they just got one step closer, according to Time. While her team found that testosterone levels fell over the course of one month on the drug, sperm production can take several months - so it will take much longer studies to show how the drug actually impacts sperm production, Wang explained. Researchers from population Council and NIH Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) who are developing a topical male contraceptive stressed this importance.
Subjects took the drug or placebo once daily with food for 28 days. Five men reported a decreased sex drive, while two described mild erectile dysfunction, but Wang said sexual activity was not decreased.
Side effects were generally mild, with a few reported of fatigue, headache, acne, and libido reduction.
Among men receiving 11-beta-MNTDC, the average circulating testosterone level dropped as low as in androgen deficiency, but the participants reportedly did not experience any severe side effects.
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On an individual level, cancer risk represented by drinking or smoking will vary. The risks for men were equivalent to five cigarettes per week, they added.
The effects of the drug seemed to fade after the men stopped taking it. The formulation contains a type of progesterone that blocks the hormone LH, which is needed for testosterone production in the testes and the hormone FSH, which works together with testosterone to make sperm. Instead, the hormone changes seen in the volunteers were "consistent with effective contraception", according to a news release. Condoms and vasectomies are the current options for men, while females have various contraceptive options: the pill, intrauterine devices or injections among others, but these place all the responsibility exclusively on women. Results of the clinical trial were presented at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting on Sunday, March 24, in New Orleans, Louisiana.
"When we ask men about hormonal compounds, about 50% are willing to try this new method".
The demand for a male pill is as intense as ever though, as co-senior investigator Dr. Christina Wang said: "Men have really limited options when it comes to reversible contraception". The rate of interest among partners of the men surveyed was even higher.
Since the drug would take at least three 60 to 90 days to affect sperm production, 28 days of treatment is too short an interval to observe optimal sperm suppression, she said.
The expert added that scientists must now carry out testing on the effectiveness of the drug.
"All we have shown so far is that it shuts down the hormones that control the function of the testes".