Male contraceptive pill: everything we know so far

Would you be interesting in a male contraceptive pill? (Photo: Shutterstock)Would you be interesting in a male contraceptive pill? (Photo: Shutterstock)
Would you be interesting in a male contraceptive pill? (Photo: Shutterstock)
The male contraceptive pill could be making its way into the world soon, but how much do we know about it?

With Dundee University researchers working with a £716,670 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create the male contraceptive pill, this is everything we know so far.

How will the male pill work?

Speaking to the BBC, head of the Reproductive Medicine Group at Dundee University, Professor Christopher Barratt, said, “Sperm move very quickly in humans. It’s the speed of Usain Bolt of you want to get an analogy. What we’re trying to do it get chemicals to stop that type of movement.”

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“So stop them in the starting blocks, rather than letting them get to the 100 metre line.”

The aim of the pill will be to trick the body into mimicking male infertility.

In the past, researchers have successfully been able to emulate male contraception in rodents. Male mice that were injected daily with JQ1, a compound, were unable to make female mice pregnant - but a few months after stopping treatment, the male mice fully recovered and were able to father healthy offspring, according to the NHS.

“The fact that JQ1 appears to be both an effective and reversible method of contraception means that it has considerable potential,” said the NHS.

When will it be available?

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The Dundee University researchers hope that a suitable compound will be identified within five years. After that, men could start testing the pill.

However, The Male Contraceptive Initiative (MCI) states, “Of the products currently in development, current estimates are 15 to 20 years away for a drug-based product and five to 10 years away for a device.

“We’re very optimistic about hormonal male contraceptive trials, as they will allow men to participate in the family planning process in a way they haven’t been able to before.”

Other male contraceptive innovations

"If you look back at the principles of male contraception then the last development was in 1450BC, which is effectively the development of the condom," Professor Barratt said.

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As well as the pill, research has also been made into a variety of other contraceptive options for men, including injections and gels.

In 2016, reports that male contraceptive injections were 96 per cent effective surfaced, however side effects were common, such as 45.9 per cent of men developing acne, one in five developing a mood disorder and around five per cent of men not recovering their sperm count a year after stopping the contraception.

Earlier this year in February, Edinburgh couples were recruited for a trial for a male contraceptive gel. The gel is called NES/T and is hoped to match the effectiveness of the pill with a 97 to 99 per cent rate of effectiveness, according to Dr John Reynolds-Wright, the leader of the study.