Health Care

First male contraceptive pill underway

First male contraceptive pill underway

Like the pill for women, the experimental male oral contraceptive - called dimethandrolone undecanoate, or DMAU - combines activity of an androgen (male hormone) like testosterone, and a progestin, said Stephanie Page, a professor at the University of Washington in the US.

"DMAU is a major step forward in the development of a once-daily 'male pill, '" Page said.

For decades, the contraceptive market worldwide had been dominated by female pills, scientists at the University of Washington Medical Centre said a male contraceptive pill that was effective, safe, and does not limit sex drive, was underway. Two formulations were tried inside the capsules, either powder or castor oil. She added that an effective oral contraceptive for men was hard to produce until now, due to the rapid metabolization rates of androgenous hormones by the male body.

From the findings, those that took the 400mg dosage showed "marked suppression" of their levels of testosterone and two hormones required for sperm production.

Co-author Dr Arthi Thirumalai said: 'It is quite old-fashioned to think that men would forget to take a pill and survey data shows that men want to take responsibility for contraception in couples.

The lower levels of testosterone produced by taking the pill did not seem to cause any of the symptoms usually associated with testosterone deficiency, Page added.

While there is a fear men may forget to take the tablets, researchers hope this can be addressed by a longer-lasting ingredient that means they can be taken daily rather than twice a day as with previous versions.

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Volunteers took the drug for 28 days once daily with food.

"Women have many options, but many women can not use hormonal and other methods available to them", said Page, who heads the University of Washington's division of metabolism and endocrinology, in Seattle.

As a result, men are not able to get their partners pregnant.

DMAU, however, includes a long-chain fatty acid that slows down the clearance, allowing just one dose to be taken each day.

Following the safety trial, a three-month study will begin in April to determine if DMAU works as a contraceptive. There were no significant changes in mood or sexual function, but a minority of participants did experience decreased libido during the study.

"Our goal - and everyone's goal in this field - is to develop a method for men that has minimal side effects, and the holy grail would be to develop something that also has a health benefit for men", Page said.

"One of the issues for men is that they really have very few options of available", she said.

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