Male Pill Still Years Away

The device is at least "four years away," says Elaine Lissner, director of the Male Contraception Information Project in San Francisco. But she also says, "a lot is going to depend on public pressure and public input" for funding.

The psychological benefit of this device, of course, is that there is no cutting of the vas deferens. This implies that fertility may be reversible, though so far this reversibility has only been proven in monkeys.

Another potential method is Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance, or RISUG. In this treatment, doctors inject a chemical into the vas deferens that kills any sperm it touches.

As for the male pill possibility touted in London this week, the advantage of this drug, if it works, is that it would offer an oral pill that would cause only temporary infertility, unlike a vasectomy.

"The time to efficacy [of the drug] is four to six hours, and [it] will wash out within 12 to 24 hours, so this is something that can be used in the short term," notes Dr. Nnaemeka Amobi, professor at King's College in London and head researcher of the drug.

Research is also being done at the cell level, looking at sperm and egg interactions, such as in Tulsiani's work. Some are also looking at ways to develop antibodies against sperm, which may affect how sperm function, or how they fertilize the egg.

Research Is There, but Funding Isn't

"Historically, often studies are started, but when it gets to the expensive stage of testing in men, the money isn't there," Lissner says. "The best methods for men will be long-acting and cheap. The best methods for pharmaceuticals are short-acting and expensive."

More international cooperation is needed as well to bring international devices to the United States, "starting with re-funding the World Health Organization's Male Task Force," Lissner says.

"In general, I think that the development of any new contraceptive option is great news," says Dr. Donnica Moore, president of the Sapphire Women's Health Group. "It gives women and men one more choice to facilitate family planning and reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy.

"I hope a male pill does make it to market soon," she says.

Yet, until more funding is directed to some very promising options, many researchers say the development of a new form of male contraception is years away.

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