• "It’s the pharmaceutical industry’s disbelief that there’s really a market for this stuff that is holding this back." (EyeEm)Source: EyeEm
Comment: It's not the first time that we seem to be on the brink of a new contraceptive method for men. We should keep our fingers crossed and hope for a painless breakthrough, but maybe not hold our breaths.
By
Ian Rose

31 Oct 2016 - 4:15 PM  UPDATED 31 Oct 2016 - 5:05 PM

Stories are emerging of researchers “ditching” the trial testing a hormonal birth control jab for men, which, for reliability, put it “in the same ballpark as the pill”.

Meanwhile, a new (non-hormonal) wonder-gel should be on the market in a couple of years, a single injection into the vas deferens (via the scrotum, it pains to report) which should sort a chap out for a decade.

If it’s an organic form of male birth control you’re after, look no further than the Justicia Gendarussa, a small native shrub from the island of Papua, which, according to clinical research in Indonesia, has remarkable contraceptive properties when ingested by geezers.

"Extremely effective" male contraceptive injection trial ditched
The trial was discontinued because a small percentage of men experienced side-effects such as mood swings, depression and muscle pain.

Given the research popularity of ‘the male contraceptive’, it looks like, before long, men could have less room to manoeuvre in shirking their family planning responsibilities.

But this stuff has long been the domain of women. The ancient Mesopotamians and Egyptians kept the numbers down by having the ladies plug themselves with acacia gum or crocodile dung. In tenth-century Persia, it was elephant dung, cabbage or pitch on the pessary table that helped to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And by the fourteen-hundreds, European women had become, by necessity, so creative in devising methods of contraception that many had to be burnt as witches.

In truth, we haven’t come a long way since then.

If you’re ever in doubt that we’re still living in a man’s, man’s, man’s world, take a look at the birth control options that are currently on offer. Besides the humble condom, which, let’s face it, everybody hates using and abandons once (fairly) certain they’re in the clear from STDs, there’s an array of pills, rings and coils, plus the comic relief of the diaphragm which are all aimed squarely and unfairly at women.

...It looks like, before long, men could have less room to manoeuvre in shirking their family planning responsibilities.

It’s women who must remember to dose up on hormones every month, have these contraptions fitted and, if they ever slip up (all too easy when attempting to insert a lubricated, devilishly springy silicon cap), it is also women who endure the embarrassment and nausea of the “morning after pill”.

It would be heartening to believe that the breakthroughs in male contraception mentioned above are a sign that the playing field is about to be evened. But there’s plenty of reason to doubt it.

The idea of a male pill is nothing new. Gregory Pincus, who co-invented the female version, which would concurrently emancipate the girls and let the boys off the hook from the swinging sixties onwards, was working on one back in 1957. Since then, various avenues have been explored, some promising, all ultimately dead-ends.

At the first hint of an unappealing side-effect, the pharmaceutical industry, led mainly by men, has developed cold feet (or other extremities) and research has fizzled.

Leading lights in the fields of pharmacology and reproductive medicine have already expressed reservations about that latest hormonal injection. They point, heads shaking, at instances of depression, acne and increased libido (which sounds a lot like being a teenager, a significant ordeal: it’s true) in some of the study’s participants.

The trials have been pulled.

At the first hint of an unappealing side-effect, the pharmaceutical industry, led mainly by men, has developed cold feet (or other extremities) and research has fizzled.

Meanwhile, a recent study in Denmark found a link between the female pill and increased vulnerability to depression, but so far there is no embargo on prescriptions.

It’s not the science that’s getting in the way of an effective contraceptive method for men being available. Science is resourceful and persistent - with enough time and money it will overcome blips, side-step side-effects. It’s the pharmaceutical industry’s disbelief that there’s really a market for this stuff that is holding this back.

The target sector is giving out mixed messages. On the one hand, there are online petitions with tens of thousands of men urging the development of new contraceptive options, blokes eager to do their bit, the vanguard of a newly egalitarian age. Justicia Gendarussa, in capsule form, is doing a roaring trade on Amazon.

But at the same time, that most proactive and radical of contraceptive measures, the vasectomy, has never been less popular.

It’s hard to say if men are growing more or less willing to take responsibility for birth control. But someday, in the not too distant future, we’re going to have less excuse not to.

And it will be about time.

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