Researcher Joseph C. Hall of Norfolk State University believes he has developed a suitable birth control pill for men. The pill could be on the market within five years.
Hall’s attempts to develop a male pill are unlike any other biochemist’s work. While others have tried to reduce sperm production, Hall has used a compound to neutralize sperm. Hall believes that this method is best because it disrupts the function of sperm, not its production, reducing side effects of suppressing sex drive or aggravating secondary sexual characteristics.
Hall reported 92 to 98 percent success rates in tests on rats with no apparent side effects. Contraception in pill form would offer men an alternative to condoms or vasectomies. “If you give them an option, they’ll use it,” especially if its reversible, reliable and non-toxic, said Hall.
Dr. Jaroslav Marik, a fertility researcher and gynecologist, is skeptical of Hall’s optimism. Marik believes the compound could work only if it targets the sperm enzyme without affecting enzymes in other parts of the body and creating side effects. He is not sure if this is possible.
Marik’s skepticism also stems from his belief that the market for a male contraceptive pill would be small. A male pill might be an option in those few instances when a woman is unable to take birth control pills, he said. Other researchers disagree, and think that a great number of men would be responsive to a contraceptive pill designed for their use.
“It’s a matter of sharing responsibility and men accepting responsibility for family planning and in general for reproductive health,” said Dr. Christina Wang, chairwoman of the World Health Organization’s Male Contraceptive Task Force.
The availability of another contraceptive method could help reduce the more than 3 million annual unwanted pregnancies in the US, said Nancy Alexander, a physiologist and associate director of medical services at Organon Inc.
“The more contraceptive choices the better,” said Alexander. “Male contraception wouldn’t be for everyone, but then no contraceptive is.”