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Birth Control May Become A Man's World


Active Member
Sep 10, 2004
Women have implants, injections, IUDs, sponges, skin patches, spermicides, pills, diaphragms, caps and contraceptive rings.

Men have condoms.

But wait five or six years, says the University of Washington's Dr. John Amory, and there may be more than latex on the male side of the birth control shelf.

A guy could smear some gel on himself and cut off his own sperm production. No more worrying about leaks, no more loss of sensation as an excuse.

"This is cutting edge," said Amory, the co-investigator in a new, federally funded contract with the UW and UCLA to study two gels that, when applied together, could work as a contraceptive.

The gel contract is just the latest in a series of studies at the UW's Center for Research in Reproduction and Contraception, which also has spent years working on a male birth control pill. The idea is to give men alternatives to condoms — which have a 10 percent to 15 percent failure rate when used as the sole means of birth control — and vasectomies.

"For so long, it's kind of been a woman's job to protect herself," said Jeff Golden, who volunteered to participate in two of the UW studies. It appears that gels hold more immediate promise than pills in the quest to develop male contraceptives in this country, Amory said.

That's because testosterone gels already are used for other purposes: testosterone replacement in men suffering from testicular cancer, for example and have been approved as safe.

Europe is ahead in the field, he said, adding that implants (combined with testosterone shots every two months) should hit the market there within three years. Gels are "where we're going in the U.S." and could reach consumers two or three years after that, Amory said.

William Bremner, principal investigator at the UW center, said legal and religious concerns have long deterred this country's big pharmaceutical companies from pursuing male contraceptives.

The UW is just winding up a study in which two groups of men were given a testosterone gel plus shots of progestin, and one of those groups also received acyline, which blocks the hormone that signals the testis to make sperm. In both groups, the gel worked, Amory said.

"The trial's going very well," he said. "The men don't feel any different, but they're not making sperm anymore."