WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Research on male birth control pills that made use of a hybrid molecule containing two hormones that lower sex drive has now passed human trials.
- The teamwork of progestin and modified testosterone in the body will help keep sperm counts low while maintaining enough modified sex hormones to fulfill its roles.
- So far, mild symptoms were experienced by some of the participants but none of the more serious side effects.
For nearly 60 years, birth control pills have always been available on the pharmacy shelves for women. But that may change before long because male birth control pills have already passed human testing.
The success of the trial is credited to a hybrid molecule: part progestin and part modified testosterone, which are the active agents in the pill, which means a user has constant matching levels of the hormones in the body.
According to the associate director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Los Angeles Biomed Research Institute (LA BioMed), Dr. Christina Wang, the combination of these two hormones can help evade low sex drive or other health problems that can be created by modified hormone levels.
Wang told Live Science that when these two hormones are separate, identical doses are processed by the body at different rates. Meaning, as sperm production is halted by progestin, natural testosterone levels are also decreased, which when dropped too low, problems like blood clots or depression arise.
Since this pill often pairs progestin with something similar to testosterone, Wang said the molecule will maintain a low sperm count while ensuring that there’s enough of the modified sex hormone to keep its essential roles filled.
Study trials aimed to assess the safety of the drug and not to determine if it worked since it would take 60 to 90 days for sperm counts to decrease. Thirty study participants took either a 200 or 400-milligram pill of the active ingredient or a placebo during the 28-day trial.
Results showed that although the participants weren’t 100 percent side-effect free, none of them manifested the serious side effects of very low testosterone levels such as higher blood pressure or depression.
Of those who took the pill, 22 experienced acne, headaches, lower sex drive, mild erectile dysfunction, and depending on the dose, an average weight gain between 2.8 to 4.2 pounds. Complaints were also reported by three participants who took the placebo pill.
While the health effects when these pills are taken long term are still unclear, studies on rats and monkeys are currently determining the effects of taking the pill for three months or longer. Once these are completed, a similar study on humans will take place.
Since not all men would want to drink pills every day, Wang said the pill will eventually be transformed into an injection.
Wang worked on the trial with researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine. The study was published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism on February 1.
Source: Live Science