A male birth control pill that suppresses testosterone is moving closer to becoming reality

Susan Montgomery/ShutterstockOther male birth control forms have been considered, including a topical gel and an injection.
  • New research suggests we’re closer to a future where a male birth control pill exists, CNN reported.
  • On Monday, researchers shared preliminary results from their study that looked at the effectiveness of 11-beta-MNTDC, a pill for males that lowers testosterone levels to prevent pregnancy.
  • The pill is still in its trial phases and has only been tested for safety so far, not effectiveness.
  • Other males contraceptives are also being tested, including a topical gel and an injection.

We’re inching closer to a future where men might take birth control pills.

On Monday, researchers shared preliminary results from a study looking at the effectiveness of 11-beta-MNTDC, a birth control pill for males that lowers testosterone levels in order to prevent pregnancy, according to CNN.

The study on this new pill, which is the second male birth control pill to make it to a testing phase, has not yet been peer reviewed, and the pill isn’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use. The same team of researchers developed both pills currently being tested.

Experts see promise in this new version of the pill for men.

“In females you have many, many methods. You have the pill, you have the patch, you have the vaginal ring, you have intrauterine devices, injections,” Dr. Christina Wang, an FDA co-principal investigator and lead researcher at LA BioMed,told Time. “In men there is nothing that is like hormonal contraception. The standard is not equal for the genders.”

The drug keeps sperm counts low by stopping testosterone production in the testes

This new pill works by stopping testosterone production in the testes in order to keep sperm counts low, preventing fertilization of an egg. At the same time, the pill delivers testosterone to other areas of the body, so a man will be able to retain characteristics like a low voice, male pattern hair, lean body mass, and normal sex function.

To test this new pill, researchers gave 30 healthy men the contraceptive and 10 healthy men a placebo, and then monitored them for 28 days. During this time, the researchers looked at the men for side effects, but did not ask them to test the pill’s effectiveness by having sex with their partners.

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All of the men were able to stay on the pill for the full 28 days, with only minor side effects like acne, fatigue, headaches, and lower libidos, which are typical side effects for women taking birth control. Two of the men reported minor erectile dysfunction on the pill.

These results differed from a past male birth control trial where men were given an injectable birth control that caused such severe side effects – pain at the injection site, depression, and irregular heartbeat – they were taken off the treatment.

Other kinds of male birth control are being tested

The birth control pills and injectables aren’t the first male contraceptives to be tested. A yearlong trial for a birth control gel for men began in December 2018 and will run into 2021. A single pump of the gel is rubbed into a man’s shoulders and takes eight to 12 weeks to become effective.

But the two birth control pills have shown the most promise so far, and both have follow-up trials planned.

Wang told Time, however, that she thinks it will be another 10 years before some form of male birth control besides condoms is available for consumer use.

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