Potential male birth control pill passes human safety tests
If you’re a sexually active woman but the pill doesn’t agree with you, we’ve got good news — US scientists have announced promising results from their recent trial of an experimental male oral contraceptive.
The contraceptive, known as 11-beta-methyl-19-nortestosterone dodecylcarbonate (11-beta-MNTDC), is a modified testosterone that has the combined actions of a male hormone (androgen) and a progesterone. As explained by co-senior investigator Christina Wang, from the Los Angeles Biomed Research Institute (LA BioMed), the combination of two hormonal activities in one is intended to “decrease sperm production while preserving libido”.
The study took place in 40 healthy men at LA BioMed and the University of Washington. Ten study participants randomly received a placebo capsule, while the other 30 men received 11-beta-MNTDC at one of two doses (200 or 400 mg). Subjects took the drug or placebo once daily with food for 28 days.
Among men receiving 11-beta-MNTDC, the average circulating testosterone level dropped as low as in androgen deficiency, but the participants reportedly did not experience any severe side effects. Wang said drug side effects were few and mild, and included fatigue, acne or headache in four to six men each. Five men reported mildly decreased sex drive and two men described mild erectile dysfunction, but sexual activity was not decreased, she said. Furthermore, no participant stopped taking the drug because of side effects and all passed safety tests.
Levels of two hormones required for sperm production dropped greatly compared to placebo, the researchers found, and the drug effects were reversible after stopping treatment. Effects due to low testosterone were minimal, noted co-senior investigator Stephanie Page from the University of Washington School of Medicine, because “11-beta-MNTDC mimics testosterone through the rest of the body but is not concentrated enough in the testes to support sperm production”.
Because the drug would take at least three 60 to 90 days to affect sperm production, 28 days of treatment is too short an interval to observe optimal sperm suppression, Wang noted. The researchers are now planning longer studies and, if the drug is effective, it will move to larger studies and then testing in sexually active couples.
11-beta-MNTDC, is a ‘sister compound’ to dimethandrolone undecanoate, or DMAU, the first potential male birth control pill to undergo testing by the same research team. The results of both studies have been published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
“The goal is to find the compound that has the fewest side effects and is the most effective,” Page said. “We are developing two oral drugs in parallel in an attempt to move the [contraceptive medicine] field forward.”
“Safe, reversible hormonal male contraception should be available in about 10 years,” Wang added.
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