Ever since the explosion of Viagra ten years ago, the male enhancement industry has grown to over five billion dollars. Enyzte alone sold one billion plus pills. And just like everything else in demand, companies are racing to cash in.
Today you can buy everything from natural male enhancement drinks to yes, even chewing gum.
But one thing gentlemen still can’t buy, is birth control for men.
Why is that?
With the popularity of female version of Viagra taking the spotlight, it sparked my interests to investigate the truth on male birth control. Going all the way back to the 50’s, I wanted to see where science has taken us and what the future holds for men.
There’s no doubt about it, male Contraceptives are in demand.
Chances are you’ve heard rumors that claim men just aren’t interested in contraceptives. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Taking responsibility doesn’t always work in a man’s favor when it comes to sex. You can use a condom or go with the pull out method, but the reality is there’s far more to it. Men today know that without control of their own fertility they are running into more than just accidental pregnancies.
With computerized child support tracking, DNA paternity testing, and women trying to beat the clock, planned pregnancies are on the rise. And what’s to stop it? Men have more reasons than ever to be worried.
The truth is, claiming that “men are not interested in male birth control” is outlandish when you look at the cold hard facts. Over 18,000 men have signed up for the Vasalgel clinical trials at their own risk. While 55% of men in the United States ages 18 to 50 said they would use men’s birth control. In other countries around the world like Germany, Mexico, Brazil and Spain, the number was even higher at an alarming 60%.
Plus consider that every one in eight married men in the United States gets a vasectomy. Now, there’s some nice data that explains the Father’s rights movement in part.
2. Could X, Y, Z be the year of birth control for men
How is your flying car treating you? You do drive it into work every day don’t you?
We’re in the year 2015 after all.. The same time period where this technology was supposed to be here.
The reality is, it is. We have helicopters, jets, and private planes. Just not everyone takes them to work every day.
The same can be said about birth control for men when you look at all the research, studies, and findings. We have the scientific backing, but not the pharmaceutical industries’ support.
It’s a good reason why most of the male contraceptive research and studies are being picked up by non-profit groups. (There’s just not enough money in it.) Vasalgel, which is the most promising answer right now, was actually selected by the Parsemus Foundation, a non-profit that advances neglected low-cost medical research and solutions. With $100,000 in hand they purchased the patent for RISUG, aka “Vasalgel”. RISUG has been studies in both humans and animals for over 30 years now with no reported complications. But I’ll get into this in more detail later on.
For now, you would think having every male on the planet demanding to buy birth control would generate billions in profit, but that’s far from the case. The gentlemen in the pharmaceutical industry board rooms aren’t jumping up and down at the thought of male birth control like they’ve found the next gold rush.
And here’s why..
3. What’s taking so long?
For starters, testing can be a multi-million dollar investment. And with a base product in place, the drug still has to go through clinical trials, FDA approval, and then to market. Assuming it gets that far, a competition will arise from other oral-contraceptives, and result in the addition of lawsuits gaining their grounds. Things get dicey and the amount of risk being absorbed goes beyond enormous. However, keep in mind that’s just for starters..
Pharmaceutical companies are still weary on the thought of men being receptive to a male contraceptive too. Back in 2007 Bayer actually shelved a birth control for men believing that an annual implant and quarterly injection wouldn’t be embraced by most men. Quote, “not as convenient as a woman taking a pill once a day.”
And what happens to the global contraceptives market? Valued at $15.7 billion with an expectation to grow to $19.6 billion by 2020, the market would be impacted drastically. What happens to the sales of condoms, female birth control pills, and all other relatively new female contraceptive devices that companies spent millions on to bring to market?
Consider that the United States condom market alone is worth a staggering $430 million.
4. The future of male birth control
Until recently, men had two contraceptive options—vasectomy or condoms. For men who have no risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, these options lacked appeal for understandable reasons. Then, in 2010, based on clinical studies for another entry on this list, Vasagel was developed. Like RISUG, it’s a polymer gel, but developed for specific marketing outside of India, on an international scale.
It works by interfering with the transmission of sperm from the testes via the vas deferens. This contraceptive is beneficial for several reasons. First, while it performs the same function as a vasectomy, it’s more reversible without surgery. Second, it’s clinically tested to be safe for healthy, sexually active men. And lastly, the Parsemus Foundation developed and specifically marketed it as an affordable option of male birth control.
The Parsemus Foundation, developed and working in India, created a non-surgical polymer gel to mimic the effects of a vasectomy. Because the company conducted rigorous clinical trials to ensure safety and efficacy, the gel has achieved international popularity. Essentially, the procedure is identical to the one used for the secondary product, Vasagel. Lengthy study and strict trials were essential, since the vas deferens tube is a tricky subject.
If a static mass is injected, the tube will stretch around it, and sperm will find a way past. If the plug is large enough to stop this, the tube will rupture. RISUG needed to be safe, non-inert, and reversible. Scientists with the Parsemus Foundation worked to develop a non-toxic, elastic substance that could be flushed out if a man wanted to be fertile again. They solved the problem of potential gaps around the polymer by integrating a non-toxic spermicide.
Intra Vas Device (IVD)
Both open and closed ended vasectomies carry several complications along with their hefty price tag. As much as ten percent of those whom had either type of procedure presented with granulomas—painful knots of tissue—or congestive epididymitis—adverse swelling of the epididymus. To resolve this, as well as make male contraceptive measures more affordable and reversible, two companies set to work developing an IVD. An American company uses micro plugs crafted from surgical-grade silicone to block the transmission of sperm.
Currently in phase II clinical trials, the results are encouraging—samples presented low or non-existent sperm levels after three months, and participants have registered no complaints of discomfort or complications. The Chinese took a slightly different approach. A surgical-grade polyurethane tube with one end closed except for a tiny hole is inserted in each vas deferens. A nylon mesh acts to capture sperm, while allowing the fluid to pass through. This is thought to curtail any buildup of pressure associated with closed-end vasectomies. Full effectiveness requires three months after the procedure, but results are highly encouraging.
Remote Control Implant
This one isn’t specifically for men, but it is in our interest. “The Pill” for women has notorious negative side effects. If we want to be compassionate partners, supporting ladies’ choice in this matter is the smartest course of action. Currently in development and backed by a grant from the Gates Foundation, this method comes in the form of a chip inserted just beneath the skin. It contains a hermetically sealed dose of the fertility-inhibiting hormone, progestin, which would be released in controlled, minute amounts over time.
If the development of this method is successful and safe, there’s nothing to say that a male version won’t be on the docket. The key to that would be discovering the best combination of hormonal dosages to effectively control male fertility without the adverse impacts that some clinical trials of hormone therapy have shown. While many misconstrue the news that this is a male birth control, it does put the power of fertility in the hands of women, with a remote-control pause function that allows her to decide if she wants to become pregnant.
Dry Orgasm Pill
The result of studying infertility as a side effect of several medications, the prospect of such a pill is rather encouraging. While, to date, there’s no pill marketed, the discoveries made studying these medications—ranging from high-blood pressure regulators to discontinued schizophrenia medication—are exciting. Doctors discovered that the reason for the infertility of men taking these medications was due to a muscular side effect in the vas deferentia.
Ordinarily, two groups of smooth muscles function together to mix sperm with semen during an orgasm. However, each of these medications presented the same impact. Longitudinal muscles failed to contract while the circular muscles did, producing a clamping effect. The result was an orgasm without sperm; though not technically dry, since semen production remained normal. Finding a safe medication that produces a similar impact is now a concerted effort.
Used as a migraine and hypertension drug, Nifedipine acts as a calcium channel blocker (CCB). This causes the muscles of the circulatory system to relax. But CCBs also act on sperm in a similar way. Researchers note that the DNA of sperm calcium channels is completely different than that of cardiac muscles, which means that it may be possible to develop a CCB that acts only on sperm. But how does it work?
Basically, it doesn’t impact the sperm count or their liveliness. Rather, it makes it impossible for a sperm to penetrate the outer layer of a woman’s ovum. The drug reduces the amount of mannose lectin, which is how a sperm penetrates this layer. Researchers believe that the drug acts to stiffen the sperm’s own outer membrane with excess cholesterol while also reducing the production of mannose lectin.
Similar to the unintended results of the Nifedipine studies, this treatment acts on the ability of sperm to effectively breech the outer layer of the ovum. Rather than taking as a template those medications used for other purposes, Dr. Joseph Hall is creating a treatment that acts to disrupt the enzyme production of sperm. Enzymes, like locks and keys in respective roles, only respond to specifically patterned partner molecules.
Hall’s research acts to make sperm with the wrong key, without impacting the motility and health of either the sperm or the human male. As a proud parent of six children, Hall was motivated by his wife, who challenged him to create a “pill” for men. But unlike some previous attempts, it was important not to permanently impact the ability to create healthy, viable sperm. Currently, clinical animal trials indicate a 98 percent success rate in vitro.
Much like an immunization or vaccine, these act to help the body to create antibodies tailored to inhibit certain functions. It is completely different from hormonally based contraceptives, and acts to prevent the production of several key hormones within the body and brain. Commonly administered to wildlife to control populations safely, these drugs are being studied for human adaptability. Essentially, a single vaccination could temporarily suspend, inhibit, or suppress the production of steroidal sex hormones, such as progesterone—a base molecule necessary for the production of a variety of hormones, including testosterone and estrogen.
As a part of the non-hormone based contraception initiative, this medication has proven quite promising. As of Phase I (animal) Clinical Testing, it showed a 100 percent bioavailability, when administered orally. As well, subject animals displayed a complete loss of fertility without the subsequent loss of mating behavior, which would be the libido in the human male, and a total return to normal fertility upon cessation of the trial.
Similar to H2, Adjudin is part of a human-relevant, ongoing clinical trial designed to safely inhibit fertility without the loss of libido. This drug acts within the testes to curtail the 64-day sperm maturation cycle. Immature sperm cells detach from their nurturing Sertoli cells prematurely and die, but the sexual systems are otherwise unaffected. However, because the dosage needed for efficacy is rather high, researchers are concerned about toxicity in other bodily systems, hence the trials continue.
This is a molecule that has been shown to effectively inhibit the BET cluster of bromodomain proteins. Originally, it was discovered in the search for a cancer drug, but has shown incredible promise in both the treatment of AIDS and as a potential male contraceptive. Why would a cancer fighting drug work as a contraceptive? Bromodomain proteins are a tight-knit group of structures, which includes a testes-specific member.
That’s right, boys, this drug—while currently still in the animal testing phase, due to its incredibly short half life—makes your body forget how to build sperm. By inhibiting the crucial protein needed to create your little swimmers, JQ1 potentially offers a safe, reversible method of birth control that in no way impacts libido or other sexual functions.
The plant, Justicia genderussa has been used by Indonesian scientists to create a safe, non-hormone based contraceptive for men. Research on this miraculous plant began in 1985 and has undergone stringent testing, research, and finally, clinical trials. The Indonesian government has proceeded to the production phase of this herbal medication, and we expect good things in the near future.
The key to its success is in its approach. It doesn’t inhibit the production or transmission of sperm, but similar to the Glycoprotein mimic discussed above, it weakens the enzymes on the nose of the sperm. That means it’s not on the Guest List once it gets to the ovum. However, in spite of their lack of appropriate dress code to get in, Genderussa doesn’t otherwise impact the sperm, which means that men taking it can look forward to a normal, healthy sex drive and other sexual functions.
This is in no way a new concept. However, the gel currently being developed through clinical trials has many advantages over its predecessors. Testosterone is a tricky thing, primarily because it’s produced in all humans, both male and female, as a sex hormone and a necessary component for the healthy maintenance of libido. It also has two sources in men—the testes and the adrenal gland—which leads to types known as “free” or blood serum testosterone and sex-specific testosterone.
The trick to producing a male birth control in the form of a gel was finding a way to inhibit the production of sex-specific testosterone, which is responsible for the production of sperm. Concomitantly, such a product must not inhibit the free testosterone, a major component in libido, energy, and positive mood balance. Research may have, at last, found just the right formula to achieve this goal, safely inhibiting the production of sperm while supporting the levels of blood serum testosterone in male users.