Friday, June 28, 2019
Clinical Trial begins for male contraceptive gel that can be rubbed onto chest, shoulder
A contraceptive gel made up of synthetic versions of the sex hormones progesterone and testosterone is being tested as an alternative to a contraceptive pill for men in a clinical trial. The progesterone stops sperm production in the testes, which lowers natural testosterone, so it’s added to the gel as well.
The gel reduces sperm count when absorbed through the skin.
Men rub it into their chest and shoulders as an easy alternative to a contraceptive pill. Men, right now have a very limited choice for contraception — using condoms or having a vasectomy. The latter one does not make for a good option if you want kids in the future. The clinical trial being conducted in Edinburgh and Manchester in the UK involves 450 couples who are required to use the gel as the main form of contraception for 12 months. Men participants apply a daily hormone-based gel to their chest, shoulders and upper arms as a prerequisite and condition of clinical trial. James Owers and Diana Bardsley, a couple in their 20s who are involved in the trial, spoke to the BBC about their experience so far.
“I squeeze a 50p-piece-size out of the dispenser — the dispenser is a bit like one of those posh toothpaste tubes. It’s got the consistency of hand sanitizer,” said Owers.
“I rub it into my shoulder and pectoral area and that dries in three to four seconds. I do that to the other shoulder and then I get dressed and go about my day as normal.” He added he’s been using it since February and has experienced very few side effects so far — a bit of acne on his back and about 1kg of weight gain.
It takes 12 weeks of using the gel for a man’s sperm count to go all the way down, and another 12 weeks for it to go back up again. If effective, it could be significantly even more reliable than the female contraceptive pill, which can be ineffective if you miss just one day.
“But if I was to miss taking this for an entire week, I would still be clinically infertile, so the risk here is quite different from the pill,” Owers said.
As reported by INSIDER, the female contraceptive pill can have side effects like nausea, headaches, and breast tenderness, and inserting contraceptive implants can be painful. Also, some women cannot use hormonal birth control for health reasons.
Similarly, clinical trials of male birth control pills have also had problems with side effects, including liver damage. Cheryl Fitzgerald, a consultant gynaecologist at Saint Mary’s Hospital, and leader of the study said she believed the contraceptive gel trial is an important step towards men controlling their fertility in a safe and simple way.
Use of contraception is a common practice adopted by humans since decades to prevent pregnancy, beginning with the withdrawal method to a variety of techniques, medications, and devices. However technological advancement in contraception has conventionally focused on the woman as there are various alternatives available in the market such as many kinds of hormonal, barrier, intrauterine device and emergency contraceptive methods leaving men with only two main options: either using condoms or undergoing a vasectomy.
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