The Male Pill – male contraceptive pill research – Brief Article

Linda Formichelli

The female condom has been available for six years, but its counterpart, the “male pill,” is only now making headway. A recent study tested a male contraceptive pill on men in Edinburgh and Shanghai. The 66 participants took female hormones every day for four weeks while receiving testosterone implants or injections. Within 16 weeks, they completely stopped producing sperm. Once treatment ended, their sperm counts returned to pretreatment levels within 16 weeks.

The trial, conducted by the Contraceptive Development Network (CDN) of the Centre for Reproductive Biology at University of Edinburgh was the first to show 100% effectiveness. Previous studies suppressed sperm production in only two-thirds of men. Still, we won’t be seeing “his and hers” matching pill cases in the near future, researchers announced at the recent International Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology annual meeting. The Dutch pharmaceutical company Organon will only begin full-scale clinical trials by early 2001, and David Kinniburgh, Ph.D., of the CDN, predicts that a male contraceptive will hit the shelves sometime after 2005.

The idea of a male pill raises some difficult issues. Some men are sensitive about their sexuality, so they may fear that the pill will leave them impotent, according to Susan Scrimshaw, Ph.D., an anthropologist and the dean of the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. Says Scrimshaw, “Now, if people were able to develop a male pill that also had the effects of Viagra …”

There are also issues about trust. “Men often say `How do I know you’re really on the pill?'” says Scrimshaw. “I think we’ll see the same thing with the male pill. But in a committed relationship, that’s not much of an issue.” To gauge public reaction, the CDN questioned nearly 1,900 women attending family planning clinics in Scotland, China and South Africa. More than 90% in Scotland and South Africa thought that a mate pill was “a good idea,” while women in Shanghai and Hong Kong were less positive at 87% and 71%, respectively.

Certainly, cultural differences will play a role in whether men take the pill at all. In a study of more than 1,800 men in Cape Town, Edinburgh, Shanghai and Hong Kong, the CDN found that while men in Edinburgh and Cape Town ranked a daily pill highly, Chinese men strongly preferred condoms. But even if the male pill is not right for everyone, it adds to the “cafeteria-style” approach to contraception. “The more choices a couple has, the more likely they are to find one that works for them physically and psychologically,” says Scrimshaw.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

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