April 30, 2022
by Marriane Solante
A team of researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a non-hormonal pill for men as a new option for male contraceptives. What happens is, a protein called retinoic acid receptor alpha or RAR-α – a form of vitamin A that is crucial in cell growth, is blocked and makes it sterile without side effects. This drug was then tested with mice through oral consumption for 4 weeks and resulted in 99% effectiveness in negative pregnancy without side effects. The mice were able to have pups after 4-5 weeks of having stopped taking the compound.
There are many contraceptives for women, such as birth control pills, IUDs, implants, injections and so on. However, there are only two available contraceptive methods for men: the condom and vasectomy. There are plenty of types of condoms available, different flavors, sizes and even designs and all of it are single-use only. Vasectomy is a surgical procedure with 90-95% effectiveness in negative pregnancy. Although it is reversible, the success rate of reversal may vary on how long the vasectomy has been done. “Most female contraceptives target sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Efforts have been made to develop male birth control pills by targeting the male sex hormone testosterone. But that leads to side effects such as weight gain, depression, increased level of LDL, etc,” says Md Abdullah al-Noman, one of the researchers that developed this pill. Male contraceptive pills were also developed before however, it had side effects that caused depression and weight gain. Many scientists have also developed pills for men, however none of it has been approved in the market for public use.
“- it can be difficult to predict if a compound that looks good in animal studies will also pan out in human trials, we’re currently exploring other compounds, as well,”
says Gunda Georg, Ph.D, who decided that they will start human trials in the third or fourth quarter of 2022. Their results were presented at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Spring 2022 on March 20-24.
A few male students of AISAT were interviewed on their opinion of this male contraceptive pill to know their views on this topic. Some of these students will remain anonymous.
Are you in favor of developing birth control pills for men?
“Yes, birth control pills should be both ways, not only for females. Females are always the one who uses birth control in a relationship, some women are not compatible or have negative side effects when taking one. Having a non-permanent birth control choice for men is good, they can help their partner if they don’t want other permanent methods,”
one student says.
What’s your opinion on this as a male?
“As a cismale person, I think I am good with it. Aside from the side effects for it and also it is effective for the mice but they didn’t have any results for humans,”
says Eduard on this male birth control pill topic. A different student has the same opinion wherein they would
“either use the condom rather than the pill because it may cause side effects to your body.”
Another student answered that “this [the contraceptive pill] could really benefit the male adults and teenagers to avoid pregnancy.”
Do you think that if this pill were to be available in the market, it would lessen and address the burden of women’s responsibility for managing contraceptives and avoiding unwanted pregnancies?
“Yes, of course. We just need to advertise it effectively to spread awareness of the product and educate people to know how it works. Relationships are a team effort,” a student answered in an interview. “Having both of you plan on contraceptives will lower unwanted pregnancies.”
As the drug has not yet been tested on humans, it is still too early to tell the results. However, with this breakthrough – we may have more options for men’s contraceptives and lessen the burden of women in avoiding pregnancies.