Gel formulation of a new male contraceptive on trial

Henrietta Strickland
December 2, 2018

Male contraception has been a challenge for decades now.

There are myriad forms of birth control for women and they often come with complicated and disruptive side effects.

United States government scientists will test an experimental birth control method for men, which would be a major advance in contraception and bring more equality to a family planning burden borne largely by women. It is at present approved by the United States Food and Drugs Administration (US FDA) as a hormonal contraceptive as well as used in treatment of endometriosis in women.

But each comes with significant drawbacks.

Failure to use a condom at all or to use one properly is a primary reason that 45 percent of pregnancies in the United States are unwanted or unintended.

Implants, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and injections are all better than 99 percent effective, but they are more expensive than condoms and all require women to go through uncomfortable procedures and to introduce something foreign and long-term in their bodies.

The rubber may be hitting the road if a new gel for men proves effective in preventing pregnancies.

But now the NIH is throwing its weight behind trials of one such contraceptive.

This new method of contraception for males could be a mid-ground between condoms and vasectomy say the researchers.

The new gel, called NES/T, is about as non-invasive as a medical product can get.

It is applied to the back and shoulders and absorbed through the skin.

Dr. Stephanie Page of UW says the gel contains both testosterone and progestin which is meant to block the production of sperm.

"You are cutting it off at the source, but replacing it everywhere else at a levels that keeps everything else functioning normally", Blithe said, pointing out that testosterone levels in the testes are 50 times higher than the amount normally found in the blood.

Seattle, Los Angeles and Kansas City plan to enroll couples to test the safety and efficacy of the birth control. The male volunteers would use the contraceptive for a period of 4 to 12 weeks once a day. "When the sperm count has declined enough they're going to tell the couples only use the gel as your form of oral contraception and then watch a year".

Page has also been testing a male birth control pill, but up until now the only form of male birth control has been condoms and vasectomy.

The couples will rely on the male gel as the sole method of contraception during that time.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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