Male birth control pill taken once a day shows success

Alicia Farmer
March 19, 2018

The prototype pills once daily suppressed certain hormones at the low levels you would have expected to see with effective long-term contraceptives, stems from an annual edition of ENDO 2018, the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society of Chicago, abstract show. "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".

Progress toward a male birth control pill has been stymied because, according to Page, available oral forms of testosterone may cause liver inflammation, and they clear the body too quickly for once-daily dosing, thus requiring two doses a day. The pill also contains a long-chain fatty acid called undecanoate, which slows the breakdown of the testosterone so that it remains effective all day in contrast to older editions.

After a false start that saw trials halted because of side effects and safety concerns, it seems major research into a contraceptive pill for men has developed a tablet that's safe and effective.

"Women have many options, but many women can not use hormonal and other methods available to them", said Page, who heads the University of Washington's division of metabolism and endocrinology, in Seattle.

Co-author Dr Arthi Thirumalai said: 'It is quite old-fashioned to think that men would forget to take a pill and survey data shows that men want to take responsibility for contraception in couples.

The investigators tested three different doses of DMAU - 100, 200, and 400 milligrams, or mg. However, the trials have been considered successful and further clinical studies will be conducted but the contraceptive pills for men could emerge on the market soon.

Researchers analyzed male hormones and cholesterol with blood tests at the beginning and the end of the study.

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At the highest dose of DMAU, the participants showed "marked suppression" of testosterone levels and two hormones needed to produce sperm.

"These promising results are unprecedented in the development of a prototype male pill", Page said.

Although there were no significant changes in mood, sexual function, vital signs, or electrocardiogram, men taking DMAU did experience mild weight gain, decreased higher-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and increased hematocrit compared with men receiving placebo. All passed safety tests including those suggestive of liver and kidney health, a hurdle previous attempts at male contraceptives have failed to meet.

This new pill, which has to be taken with food, blocks receptors in the brain to shut off hormones required for sperm production.

"We need to do a longer trial - three to six months - to demonstrate that sperm productions falls with longer use of DMAU", she said.

"Although little testosterone is circulating, very few people have symptoms consistent with a testosterone deficiency", Trang said.

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