India may launch the world’s first male contraceptive soon: Will men be willing to use it?
Dr Sujoy Guha had developed the first-ever male contraceptive injection in the world in the 1980s. The drug is now awaiting approval to be launched.
For the longest time, contraceptive methods have been somewhat divided by gender - condoms to males and everything else (pills, IUDs, patches, injections) to females. That line was blurred recently though with the introduction of female condoms. And now, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has announced that safe and effective male contraceptives may soon be a reality. Dr Sujoy Guha, a biomedical engineer from IIT Kharagpur, had developed the first-ever male contraceptive injection in the world in the 1980s. The drug has gone through clinical trials and is now awaiting approval to be launched into the market.
It is going to be an injectable drug that (once taken) could suppress male fertility for up to 10 to 15 years.
After the designated time, the person would regain their fertility.
In the research published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, lead author and researcher Dr Radhey Shyam Sharma, wrote that so far, vasectomy is the only 100% effective procedure when it comes to male contraception. Although vasectomy is said to be a reversible procedure, the surgery is complicated and may not even be effective. The ICMR drug is not only non-invasive but also a reversible alternative to vasectomy.
The injection is currently named after the procedure - RISUG, short for Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance.
How does it work?
RISUG is actually a synthetic polymer containing two different chemical compounds - Styrene Maleic Anhydride (SMA) dissolved in Dimethyl Sulphoxide (DMSO). When injected together into the vasa deference (male reproductive tubes that carry the sperms from testes into the urethra) this solution creates blockages so the sperm is not able to pass through to the urethra. Previous studies have also observed that the few sperms that could pass through in some cases, had a damaged structure and could not lead to pregnancy.
In their clinical trials, the ICMR team gave this injection to 139 men and followed up for any health problems over the next six months. The study concluded that no significant health risks were noted in any of the participants. All side effects were temporary and resolved on their own within a month.
Since it is just a blockage in the vasa deference, fertility can be regained by just removing the compound from the tubes. This can be done by flushing the urethra with sodium bicarbonate along with DMSO since SMA dissolves in high pH.
Not the only research
Though it would be the first male contraceptive to be launched, the ICMR product is not the only one. Vasalgel, a similar injectable, is undergoing clinical trials in the USA. The product doesn’t seem to be going to market any time soon though.
An oral contraceptive for men is under development at the Washington University, USA. The drug called DMA Undecanoate (DMAU) contains a steroid called Dimethandrolone (DMA). It suppresses the production of testosterone in men, ultimately reducing sperm production. The effects of DMAU are reversible, just like RISUG, though they are not as long-lasting and the person will have to take the pill regularly. DMA undecanoate has also been proven safe in initial clinical trials though it still needs more research to be deemed fit for use.
Hormonal treatments have previously been tried for male contraception but in most cases, they have associated side effects such as weight gain, liver problems and depression.
The most important question is, will men be willing to use it?
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