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Male contraceptive pill hits safety goals

Published on 19/03/18 at 10:49am

A male contraceptive pill may be edging closer to the market, after a new formulation was shown to be safe when taken daily for a month.

The potential new oral contraceptive aims to bypass many of the issues that have hindered previous attempts at developing such a means of birth control.

Research has shown that men would prefer to take a daily pill over the use of injections or gel. However, a difficulty was arrived at due to the fact that body is able to clear a combination of testosterone and progestin too quickly.

The latest formulation is able to get around this pitfall by adding undecanoate, a long-chain fatty acid, which acts to delay the release and stop the too-rapid breakdown of the chemicals.

Another issue that the research has been able to circumvent are the issues associated with liver damage; in trials for the new pill, liver and kidney function were found to be entirely normal in participants after 28 days of taking the treatment.

The main side-effects of the drug, called dimethandrolone undecanoat (DMAU), in the 83 men that completed the trial, were weight gain, acne and a decrease in HDL cholesterol.

However, the effects the team were looking for, a reduction in testosterone levels that led to effective contraception, were also found.

“DMAU is a major step forward in the development of a once-daily 'male pill',” Stephanie Page, the study’s senior investigator, said. “Many men say they would prefer a daily pill as a reversible contraceptive, rather than long-acting injections or topical gels, which are also in development.”

It appears that the pill may be a viable form of treatment and Page noted that, despite having lower levels of circulating testosterone, only a few of the subjects reported symptoms consistent with testosterone deficiency or excess.

The issue will come should the pill reach it to the market, how many men are likely to be keen on voluntarily taking a pill that lowers testosterone?

Ben Hargreaves

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