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The male contraceptive pill: non-human trial shows promising results

Hester Phillips

06 April 2022

A contraceptive pill for men has been tested on mice, with human trials due to start by the end of the year.

A contraceptive pill for men has been tested on mice, with human trials due to start by the end of the year.
Photo credit: iStock/ljubaphoto

What is the research about?

A possible contraceptive pill for men. The research is at an early stage, but a trial involving mice has shown promising results.

Why is this research important?

Women have many options to prevent pregnancy, and the birth control pill is one of the most popular.

However, there are only two effective birth control options for men: external condoms (also known as male condoms) and vasectomy.

This is one of the reasons why women are often seen as responsible for preventing pregnancy. If men had access to an effective birth control pill, the situation might become more equal.

Research to find a birth control pill for men has been going on for decades. But most trials are on hormone-based contraceptives, which target testosterone. These types of contraceptives have been found to cause side effects, such as weight gain, depression and increased cholesterol. To date, none have passed safety tests in human clinical trials.

This research is different because it involves a non-hormonal contraceptive. This contraceptive targets a vitamin A receptor, which plays an important role in sperm formation, instead of testosterone.

What did they find out?

The non-hormonal contraceptive was found to effectively prevent pregnancy in mice with no significant side effects.

The contraceptive was given in oral form to male mice for four weeks. It significantly reduced sperm count and was 99% effective at preventing female mice from getting pregnant.

After they stopped receiving the contraceptive, the male mice were able to father pups again after four to six weeks. This means the contraceptive is reversable and does not cause infertility.

What does this mean for reproductive health services?

Testing this contraceptive on men through clinical trials is due to start by the end of 2022. But there is no guarantee the pill will pass these trials and reach the market. Even if these trials are a success it is likely to be a number of years before a male contraceptive pill is widely available.

When discussing the current male contraceptive options with men it is important to give them clear and factual information, which you can find on our external condoms and vasectomy pages.

One important thing to say to anyone considering their options is that condoms are the only contraceptive that protects against HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy.

Vasectomy is considered a permanent type of birth control and does not protect against HIV or STIs.

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