A rub-on gel contraceptive for men is scheduled to begin testing in 2018. The gel contraceptive is expected to be more effective in delivering hormones than pills or injections.
Clinical Trial For Male Contraceptives
A four-year clinical trial for a rub-on male contraceptive is scheduled to begin in April 2018 and is expected to be the largest test of hormonal birth control for men. The trial will involve 400 couples at various sites in the United States, UK, Kenya, Italy, Chile, and Sweden, in which the men will bring home a bottle of the contraceptive gel.
The men are tasked to simply rub a half teaspoon of gel onto their upper arm and shoulder every day, while the women will use other forms of birth control until the sperm count drops to less than a million per milliliter. Once the sperm count is low enough, the women can go off their birth control, and the couple will only use the gel as their method of birth control for a year.
Testosterone And Progestin
The gel is made up of synthetic testosterone and progestin. While progestin prevents the natural testosterone from creating the normal levels of sperm, the synthetic testosterone stabilizes the resulting hormone imbalance that could arise from the progestin's interference without causing the body to produce sperm. Ideally, the gel can limit sperm levels for up to 72 hours.
The rub-on method has proven successful in a previous six-month study that involved two different gels that had to be rubbed in different body parts. The upcoming test combines the two gels and uses reformulated hormones from the initial test.
According to Diana Blithe of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the gel form of the hormone contraception works more effectively than the pills because it gets absorbed into the skin and stays in the bloodstream for longer periods whereas the hormones from pills get omitted from the body quickly.
Male Contraception And The Problem With Forgetfulness
As it stands, condoms and a vasectomy are the only options for birth control among men compared to the many contraception options for women such as IUDs and birth control pills. In a way, it leaves the responsibility of birth control to women, but men have recently been more open to male birth control methods as shown by a 2010 survey wherein 25 percent of men worldwide were said to be open to using hormone contraceptives.
"This is about gender equity. Men would also like to be able to regulate their own fertility and not be forced into fatherhood," said Regine Sitruk-Ware, researcher and distinguished scientist.
The problem that researchers foresee is when men forget to rub on the gel every day just like when women forget to take their contraceptive pills. So far, forgetfulness is the top reason for the failure of oral contraceptives. What's more, even if it does prove to be an effective male contraceptive, it may not be available to the public for several years.
That said, they are confident that when used daily, the gel could be an effective contraceptive for men in the future.