Non-hormonal male birth control pill may reduce rate of unplanned pregnancy – Study

May 30, 2024

If the non-hormonal male birth control pill proves to be 99 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy, as indicated in pre-clinical trials, women who have been affected by the constant use of hormonal contraceptives may finally find relief.

This is as researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine’s Centre for Drug Discovery discovered a new pill that can temporarily inhibit a particular protein responsible for fertility in males.

This breakthrough, an international news medium, Newsweek, reports could represent a major step forward in making the male “pill” a reality.

Research into a hormone-free male contraceptive pill has been ongoing and clinical trials began in the United Kingdom in 2022.

Before this, female contraceptive pills and other birth control methods were well-known and widely used, while male contraception options were limited to condoms.

However, recent innovations have expanded male contraceptive options to include spermicides and vasectomies.

According to the researchers, the pill or compound targets the protein, thereby temporarily impeding sperm mobility, adding that normal sperm function resumes after the compound has exited the system.

“This drug works by inhibiting the retinoic acid receptor-alpha, RAR-alpha, a pathway crucial for sperm production. Preclinical studies demonstrated that the drug was 99 per cent effective in preventing pregnancies in mice and fully reversible, showing no apparent side effects,” they noted.

However, the researchers noted that the compound has only been tested on mice and further work must be done before human trials can begin.

As a result, it would take some time before the pill is available.

The Director of the Centre for Drug Discovery, Dr Martin Matzuk, said, “Although researchers have been investigating several strategies to develop male contraceptives, we still do not have a birth control pill for men.

“In this study, we focused on a novel approach – identifying a small molecule that would inhibit serine/threonine kinase 33 (STK33), a protein that is specifically required for fertility in both men and mice.

“STK33 is therefore considered a viable target with minimal safety concerns for contraception in men.”

A postdoctoral associate at Baylor College of Medicine’s Centre for Drug Discovery, Courtney Sutton, further told Newsweek, that the compound, called CDD-2807 would further be tested “on non-human primates to see if the same contraceptive effects are observed.

“Research into male contraception has been going on for years and will continue to be researched for many years in the future, however challenges with finding suitable non-hormonal targets that will prevent sperm motility and or sperm morphology and not have adverse effects on weight and testis size make the path to obtaining reliable reversible contraception just a little longer to traverse.”

Several independent studies revealed that many Nigerian men do not use contraceptives.

A study on Nigerian men’s perception of family planning revealed that 71 per cent do not use any modern contraceptive method, 19 per cent believe that contraception is a woman’s business, while 38 per cent believe that women who use contraceptives may become promiscuous.

PUNCH Healthwise recently reported the rise in STIs and abortion among married women due to the unavailability and unaffordability of contraceptives.

Speaking on the invention, a professor of Urology and Consultant Urological Surgeon at the University of Abuja and the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Oseremen Aisuodionoe-Shadrach, stated that for the pill to gain acceptance among males, clinical trials must first prove that it can effectively prevent contraception without the side effects associated with hormonal pills.

He said, “But luckily for this particular one, they said they’ve identified non-hormonal targets that will cause the contraceptive effect. I think that is the encouraging aspect because people don’t like to take any medication that will alter their hormonal balance. So if there is a medication that is going to cause the desired effect, which is contraception, in this case, without affecting the hormonal balance of the sex involved, which is in this case the men, I’m sure that it will be acceptable.”

The don, however, noted that the slow adoption of contraception among males was due to cultural beliefs, adding that it could be difficult to change the perceptions and mindsets.

The Reconstructive Urologist explained that the reluctance towards vasectomy is largely due to the surgical nature of the procedure and the psychological impact of “stopping their capacity to reproduce.”

“Not many men will do a vasectomy. Not many men will even use condoms, as simple as it is, because they feel it is the woman who should routinely use contraception. Most of these things stem from cultural beliefs and are not psychological.

“First, because men think that it is women who should use contraception. You know, they think, culturally, it is the woman who gives birth. So, if you don’t want to give birth or want to space childbirth, you should use contraceptives. So, I think that it is just a cultural way because that was how it was devised from the beginning and that was why female contraception started early.

“It was like, if we can get female contraception then there will be no conception. So, of course, the introduction of barrier methods using condoms is not necessarily for male contraception, but for the prevention of Sexually Transmitted Infections, really. So in a logical sense, you would say that female contraception started with a cultural bias that since it is the woman who gives birth, then prevent that conception in the same woman.”

He praised the science behind the development of non-hormonal male contraception, asserting that it would improve its acceptability.

“But if, perhaps, they find that just taking a tablet and a pill, which does not affect his hormones will achieve that, maybe that will help,” the urologist added.

Aisuodionoe-Shadrach also asserted that barrier contraception such as condoms would still be needed for the prevention of STIs, despite this new birth control pill.

He further stated that the pill also makes men involved in family planning, consequently reducing the rate of unplanned pregnancy and abortion.

“Contraceptives puts the power in the person who is taking it. That is why some women can decide not to be pregnant without their husbands knowing if they are using contraceptives because there is no way they can know except it’s both decided by the couple. If somebody is taking contraceptives, there is no way you can know.

“So if the man now also decides that he doesn’t want a child, or he wants to space child bearing, he can as well use the pill to prevent contraception. So it gives power to the men in that sense and this can reduce the rate of unwanted conception and abortion,” he said.


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