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A New Male Contraceptive Pill

A NOVEL oral contraceptive pill for males has shown significant safety results, according to new research. Birth control pills are widely used in modern medicine to prevent unwanted pregnancies and these oestrogen or progesterone-based pills are taken by many women all over the world; now, males may also be able to have the same once-daily oral contraceptive option as women, rather than having to use longer-acting injections or gels.

Researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA undertook a study to investigate the safety of a new male contraceptive pill, named dimethandrolone undecanoate (DMUA). DMUA has been designed as a daily oral contraceptive, comprised of an androgen and a progestin. One hundred healthy males, aged 18–50 years, across two study centres were enrolled in the trial, in which three different doses (100, 200, and 400 mg) and two varying formulations of DMUA were tested over a 28-day period against a placebo control group. A total of 83 men completed the study.

Analysis of patient blood samples showed that men who took a daily 400 mg dose of DMUA had a marked reduction in testosterone levels and two additional hormones that are vital to sperm production; these results were consistent with the results of longer-term studies of male contraception. Despite these lower testosterone levels, the majority of men did not express any of the symptoms associated with excessive or deficient testosterone levels, according to study lead, Prof Stephanie Page, University of Washington. All of the patients passed every safety test, including markers of liver and kidney function, which have previously hindered male contraceptive pill development due to liver inflammation. The men experienced weight gain and a decrease in the levels of high-density lipoproteins, both of which Prof Page described as mild.

This study is limited by the use of a small cohort of patients over a relatively short study period; these are issues that should be addressed in further long-term investigations. Nonetheless, the study shows the exciting potential DMUA holds as a male contraceptive drug. “These promising results are unprecedented in the development of a prototype male pill,” concluded Prof Page.