Pills, sponges, IUDs, diaphragms -- women have many options for planning their fertility, none of them quite perfect. But what if men want to help out? They have only two options -- vasectomy, which is usually permanent, and condoms, which are crucial for dating but get old in long-term relationships. Will men ever have a way to reliably make sure that nobody is every calling them "Daddy" before they are ready?
For decades, pundits have predicted new contraceptives for men within the next 5 to 10 years. But judging from work presented today at the second "Future of Male Contraception" conference, we may finally be getting closer.
Some highlights from the second day of the conference:- Researchers from the University of Washington tried a hormone regimen based on two products already available on the market. They used testosterone gel, which is marketed for men with low testosterone, plus a progestin shot used as a female contraceptive under the name "DepoProvera." The men got a shot once every 3 months and rubbed on a gel every day, and it worked well at knocking out sperm in 90% of them. However, men's opinions of the method varied widely: 6 dropped out, and of the remaining 38, half of them were satisfied or very satisfied, a third were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied, and the rest were undecided or had mixed feelings.
So the drug doesn't harm mice-- but will it be fine in men? Dr. Wolgemuth thinks the chances are good. "There's extensive toxicology data in rats and rabbits -- and at much higher doses-- because industry is developing it for other uses. So we're optimistic that there would be no adverse side effects in humans as well."
So how long must we wait? Advocates say it all depends on men speaking up. "We've seen today that the pipeline is full-- everything from new targets to actual human trials," explains Kirsten Thompson, director of the International Male Contraception Coalition. "And the demand is there-- hundreds of men have voiced their opinion on our website MaleContraceptives.org and in surveys. So it's just a question of whether policymakers act on that demand." Elaine Lissner, director of the Male Contraception Information Project, concurs. "We could have something like the IVD on the market in 4-5 years, if we make an all-out effort with funding and focus. But if we continue with just a study here and a study there, it could be an eternity."
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