Australian scientists one step closer to male contraceptive pill

If you and your partner are trying to not get pregnant, chances are your contraceptive responsibilities fall on the one with the uterus in the relationship. (Unless you rely on condoms, or the pull-out method).

Even though the female contraceptive pill has been around for almost 60 years, an equivalent pill for men has never hit the shelves.

Scientists from Monash University hope that’ll change within a decade.

“The idea that we’ve got is that we want to stop the message from the brain getting to the part of the body which makes sperm move from its storage site to where it has to go to get ejaculated,” Lead researcher from Monash University Sab Ventura told Hack.

“So if the sperm doesn’t go there, the sperm doesn’t come out with the ejaculate.”

1970s poster produced for the Health Education Council.

If Dr Ventura’s research is successful, it would result in a hormone-free contraceptive pill for men. Yup – no hormones.

“We’ve genetically modified mice to show that if we delete two proteins, we can make this happen. So we can male infertile mice who are otherwise completely normal and able to have sex quite normally.

“The way we’ve seen it in the mice, you might see a small reduction in the volume of the semen as well.”

Shut up and take my money

So when can men start rocking up to the GP and getting a prescription for the male contraceptive pill?

Dr Ventura hopes the pill will be available within a decade, but there’s still a lot of work to do between now and then.

“We need to block two proteins, and we’ve got a drug that’s able to block one of them very well which is on the market and used by men for other reasons. But we need to make one to block the other protein, so that’s where we’re at with that.”

As Hack has reported before, progress on a male contraceptive pill has been notoriously slow and dogged by a particularly significant trial being aborted in 2016.

At the time, Professor Robert Mclachlan from Monash University told Hack that a lack of support from Big Pharma to fund medical trials of male contraceptive pills was holding the research area back.

“You have to hope down the track that a company is willing to re-open the file. Otherwise the area is just not going to go ahead,” Professor Mclachlan said.

For Dr Ventura’s study, funding from the Male Contraceptive Initiative has allowed the team to go into the next stage of the drug’s development.

Dr Ventura is confident there’s a market out there for the male pill.

“I think young guys in their late teens and early twenties, a lot of them are keen to have some control over contraception, so I think a lot of them would take it.”