Is There a Male Birth Control Pill?

Is there a male birth control pill? If so, when will it be available? If not, why?

According to Richard Anderson of Edinburgh University in Scotland, “Male contraception is now becoming a reality instead of a ‘cloud cuckoo land’ where it’s been for a long time.” In fact, after more than 30 years of research, scientists feel that a male hormonal contraceptive will be available in about five to seven years.

Anderson is the principal investigator on a recent study (completed in 2007) that sought to demonstrate that long-acting testosterone lowers sperm counts. The study was successful, showing that so long as doses of testosterone were high enough, sperm counts in normal men plummet to zero. Researchers combined the testosterone with a progestegenic (female) hormone to counter the detrimental effects of high-dose testosterone on blood fat profiles. So far, Anderson’s method, which combines the implant of a testosterone pellet with oral doses of desogesterol (the progestegenic hormone), appears to be both reversible and safe (though I’m sure we’ll see debate on that front).

There’s another possible male contraceptive being researched at UCLA Medical Center in California. This one is a non-hormonal substance called triptolide. It’s extracted from a Chinese medicinal herb called Tripterygium wilfordii. Chinese men given triptolide for rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis become infertile within two months of starting treatment — yet triptolide does not seem to inhibit sperm formation. Researchers are currently trying to figure out how triptolide works.

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