A male birth control pill that dramatically lowers testosterone levels is moving forward into a 3-month trial
- A new kind of male birth control pill was recently tested in a month-long trial, and is moving forward into a three-month study — the next step in the FDA approval process.
- The pill is taken once daily with a meal.
- Some men who took it gained a few pounds, and some decreased their levels of "good" HDL cholesterol.
- The experimental pill is at least five to 10 years away from coming to market.
For decades, men have had only two ways to actively avoid impregnating a partner: wear a condom (which are about 85% effective) or get a vasectomy. But doctors Stephanie Page from the University of Washington and Christina Wang from UCLA are testing a new drug for men that works a lot like "the pill" for women. They're hoping the once-daily hormone-suppressing pill might become a new option for preventing unwanted pregnancies. "Men actually are very interested in contraception," Page told Business Insider. "Between vasectomy and condoms, they do about 17% of the contracepting in the United States. They just don't have a lot of choices."
The experimental drug was recently tested in a one-month trial involving 83 subjects. It's called dimethandrolone undecanoate, or DMAU, and works by suppressing male body's natural sex hormone (testosterone). In its current form, the pill lowers a man's testosterone levels to what they were in boyhood or lower, essentially like a chemical castration. To balance out the effects of men's low testosterone levels while taking the drug, the patients were given a synthetic androgen, or male steroid hormone, to help them maintain their "male" characteristics. The artificial hormone is designed to mimic the role testosterone plays in non-sperm-related functions in the body, like sex drive, musculation, and hair growth.
When men stop taking the pill, their natural hormones should have a resurgence, and they'll be able to impregnate again. It's similar to the way hormonal birth control works in women. Page and Wang are readying their drug for a three-month, FDA phase-2 trial that's set to start next month. The pill looks a bit like a fish oil capsule, and will be tested in men from 18 to 50 years old, with doses ranging from 200 to 400 milligrams a day. Now that the researchers have seen that their pill can indeed lower men's testosterone, the longer study will assess how effectively the men's sperm count is annihilated by those lower testosterone levels.