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Search For Male "Pill" Bearing Results

December 17, 2002

Recent studies in Britain have shown that a male birth control pill will indeed find a market, mainly among men in monogamous relationships. Moreover, there has been a sharp rise in information, much of it developed through fertility research, about how low sperm levels need to be for a man to be infertile.

A male pill is 5 to 10 years away and is more likely to take the form of an implant or a shot since the most common testosterone taken orally can damage the liver, several experts said.

But efforts to develop a male contraceptive are finally gaining momentum, with several clinical trials under way or about to begin.

  • In the largest study, sponsored by the World Health Organization and the Chinese government, a total of 1,000 men in 10 locations are receiving monthly testosterone injections. Once their sperm counts drop low enough, the participants begin having unprotected sex with their partners.
  • The short-term side effects of testosterone shots can include acne and weight gain (not in fat but in muscle, like the extra bulk seen in athletes using steroids).
  • However, its long-term effects are still largely unknown, so the study's two-year duration is important, said Dr. Christina Wang.

"Male physiology conspires against an easy solution," Dr. Nancy J. Alexander wrote in a 1999 article in Scientific American. While fertile women produce a single egg a month on a predictable cycle, men produce tens of millions of sperm every day in the testes. Since it takes about 75 days for sperm cells to mature and become capable of fertilizing an egg, any contraceptive aimed at sperm production needs at least two and a half months to work.

Source: Leslie Berger, "Quest for Male 'Pill' Is Gaining Momentum," The New York Times, December 10, 2002.

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