A male birth control pill has just passed human safety tests

A doctor holding a small pill

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There's hope that men will be able to take contraceptives in the future as an experimental male birth control pill passes preliminary testing with flying colors. The effects were reversed after the treatment stopped. It is a modified testosterone that has the combined actions of a male hormone (androgen) and a progesterone, said the study's co-senior investigator, Christina Wang, M.D., Associate Director, Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Los Angeles Biomed Research Institute (LA BioMed), Torrance, Calif.

The initial study involved 40 healthy men, with 14 receiving 200mg of the 11-beta-MNTDC drug, 16 receiving 400mg, and the rest receiving a placebo.

The findings, which were presented on Sunday, March 24 at ENDO 2019, the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in New Orleans, showed that when used daily for a month, the experimental pill caused a large drop in the levels of two hormones required for sperm production, compared to the placebo.

Side effects included fatigue, acne or headache and were seen in four to six men each.

The Family Planning Association has called the development as a step in the right direction, welcoming any new method of contraception that allows men to take greater responsibility for male contraception: "We believe lots of men would be interested in trying new methods of contraception that will allow them to ease the burden of responsibility for their partners".

However, the men did not experience any severe side effects, such as major loss of libido, as can occur in a typical state of androgen deficiency.

Though experts have hailed this study as a significant moment, there's still more work to be done to bring such a pill to market and mass distribution. There were two reports of mild erectile dysfunction. Ten of the men were given a placebo. In the higher dose group, there was a slight decrease in sexual desire score, although there weren't any changes in sexual activity.

However, because the drug would take longer than 28 days to affect sperm production, the team note that this trial is too short to observe optimal sperm suppression. Finally, the pill would be tested in sexually active couples, Wang said.

Wang and her team are now conducting studies on rats and monkeys with the aim of determining whether the pill is safe for consumption over a period of three months or longer.

"We know that in order to produce a healthy sperm - which has a life cycle for approximately 3 months - there has to be secretion of both FSH and LH, which are two hormones secreted by the pituitary gland", he explained.

However, it's important to show that 11-beta-MNTDC is safe to take.

In December, a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded male birth control also kicked off its clinical trial.

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