A Pill for Men–Still Five Years Away

The Internet, especially the feminist blogosphere, is all abuzz this week with the promise of a new contraceptive pill for men within the next five years. But researchers always say a pill for men is just five years away, according to University of Washington medical professor John K. Amory.

The spark of new hope stems from an interview with Professor Haim Breitbart of Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, published June 28 in London’s Telegraph.  Breitbart promises a monthly pill, free of side effects, for men. The Telegraph says human trials are scheduled to begin next year.

How does this proposed pill work? The answer lies in a breakthrough paper Breitbart published four years ago,  in which he and his colleagues announced a new discovery about how sperm cells create new proteins after ejaculation, while hanging around in the uterus before fertilization can take place. Breitbart believes that if this protein production process can be derailed, conception can be prevented without hormones.  He calls his chemical concoction the Bright Pill (a twist on his name).

So far, the prototype works very well, inducing temporary sterility for one to three months at time, depending on dosage. In mice, that is. Breitbart believes there are no side effects, telling a reporter for an Israeli news service,

The mice behaved nicely. They ate and had sex; they were laughing, and everything, so all I can say is that we couldn’t see any behavioral side-effects–all their sex behavior was retained, which is a very important consideration for human men.

Well, then. If the mice were laughing and having still having sex, then it must be all right. (Mice laugh? How can you tell?) I’m certainly willing to give Breitbart the benefit of the doubt on this one and believe that so far, the Bright Pill is very effective for male mice.

But we’re a long way from the jubilation seen in some corners of the Internet over this news. Not only does effectiveness in mice not guarantee effectiveness in humans, Breitbart and his research associate, Dr. Yael Gur, plan to continue rodent testing for at least another year before moving on to test the pill on primates. Then come three phases of clinical trials in humans, after lab and animal testing, to assure the drug’s safety and efficacy before developers can apply for U.S. approval  (other countries have similar processes). Funding is needed for this lengthy process, and since there’s presently no drug company behind the project, Breitbart and Gur are seeking investors.

So even if a Pill for men is five years away, would men use it? Depending on the study and the country, anywhere between 14 percent and 71 percent of men say they would. What do you think, Ms. Blog readers? If you’re male and heterosexual, would you take Brietbart’s “Bright Pill”? If you’re a woman who has sex with men, would you want your partner to take it?

Cross-posted at re:Cycling, the blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Photo from Flickr user be_khe under Creative Commons 3.0

Comments

  1. The whole time I was reading the article I was thinking, “But would men take it?” and then you asked that very question. Sadly, I can imagine some heterosexual men not taking it simply because it is a male version of the Pill–something very female. I can see some men thinking that taking the Bright Pill might decrease their masculinity in some way. But I also know of other heterosexual men who have been wishing for this very thing. I would be sketchy about my partner taking it, though, simply because of health and safety reasons. Remember the first form of the Pill? Of course, science and technology have advanced greatly since then….I’m interested to see what happens.

  2. If the pill works, I think it’s a good idea. It gives couples more choices and more shared responsiblity in controling pregnancy.
    And just a side note.. i’m happy to know that the mice are still laughing and carrying on. haha that might be one of the funniest quotes ever

  3. I have no doubt my guy would take it! Assuming, of course, the side effects are no worse than those from the woman’s Pill.

  4. There are so few drugs that don’t have side effects. I think they should keep looking at ultrasound as a potential form of male contraception.

  5. Stephanie says:

    I heard about the male birth control pill several years ago. I think what always happens is that the drug companies say that men wont buy it so it’s not a great investment. BS! I know plenty of men who would not only take male birth control, but really appreciate to actually have the option. I find it ridiculous that women alone still have to bear the burden of buying birth control, and the responsibility to make sure they are regularly taking their birth control, especially because of all the hormonal effects that it can have on women. We’ll see if Breitbart’s pill actually makes it to market; I hope it does.

  6. I think it would be nice to share the responsibility and have one partner take bc for one year and the other for another year. As a woman on bc, I’m a little nervous about what the constant hormones are doing to my body…it would be nice to take a break…

  7. I’d like to split the responsibility of letting hormones screw up my system, definitely. However, I’m not sure if men will be okay with the pill, considering they’ll always assume it with the woman’s version of the pill (and being gasp! a woman by extension).

  8. I think some men would take the pill–but I think a lot more men would claim to take the pill in an attempt to get women to have unprotected sex with them.

  9. As a hetero woman, I think the idea is wonderful, but I would need more details on how it works to be convinced.

    While I support the availability of the pill (for women) whole-heartedly, I have recently decided to discontinue using it in favor of the Fertility Awareness Method. I too was worried, as an above poster mentioned, about the effects of constant hormones. Aside from the question of long-term effects, I enjoy my body’s natural cycle and being on hormonal birth control doesn’t feel right.

    Barring any personal reasons a guy wouldn’t want to take it, I would absolutely encourage it. It is the men after all who are fertile all the time!

    And in response to Half Boston’s comment: Birth control should never be the reason one decides to forego a condom. The sort of instance described seems like it would more than likely take place outside of a long-term relationship. While I don’t doubt some men would use this tactic, a woman agreeing to have sex unprotected on the basis of birth control is irresponsible herself for ignoring the risk of STIs.

  10. Well, Im a guy and honestly the number one most obnoxious aspect of my sex life is the condom. Condoms suck. I hate them, men hate them. Not to be overly blunt, but ladies, try to imagine receiving oral through saran wrap and you’ll have a good idea.

    As a couple, my girl and I double our protection for the extra anti-baby benefits (pills and condoms), but it really kills our sex life. Traditional penetrative sex exists only for her pleasure (which is cool and all, but not ideal), and other forms of sex take too long for quickies to be anything but one sided (depending on who’s being generous that day).

    The drug companies say there isn’t a clear market for a male pill, but there has to be a plethora of couples that would be happy to throw condoms out the window.

  11. As a hetero male, I would love to use such a product (assuming there really are ‘no’ side effects) and would not feel emasculated in the slightest. Hell, I’d actually feel empowered to have such freedom to have unprotected sex without having to worry about the consequences (STIs aside, but I tend to have only one partner anyhow).

    David is absolutely right. There would be a HUGE market for these things.

    Seriously: freedom from condoms and the only thing you have to do is pop a pill before you go to bed, where no-one can see you anyway! Considering the widespread hatred of condoms among us men and the constant attempts by manufacturers to make condoms thinner and feel like they’re not there, I think it’s pretty much a no-brainer. The only groups I can think of who would be against it would be certain religious followers (what’s new?) and condom manufacturers themselves simply because it would put them out of business. ;)

  12. I think its a fantastic idea, and I would definately definately take it. One of the things it would also do (for good or ill) is it would shift the balance of power in relationships. I know a couple of guys whos GFs "forgot to take their pill" and are now have children and are locked into a long term relationship they re not happy with. Apparently this type of behaviour is quite common (calculated OCP failure rates and pregnancies on the pill don't nearly add up). Sadly children are sometimes used as leverage in a relationship. But regardless it can only be a good thing, more choice.

  13. I would love for this product to be out right now. If used with combination with my partner taking her birth control, I think we can have a great, extremely low-worry, condom-free sex life. How could I not be tempted to take this pill? (And I know she would be just as excited as me to go condom-free.)

  14. This is all cool and everything.. but if that picture is meant to be a mouse.. its not.. its a hamster…

  15. I know a couple of guys whos GFs “forgot to take their pill” and are now have children and are locked into a long term relationship they re not happy with.

    http://www.genericwebpharmacy.com/

  16. EqualityKate says:

    Sorry for such a late reply, but my partner and I are practically dying to see men get the same variety of choice regarding contraceptive methods as women and wishes he could have a hormonal contraceptive, I’m sick of being the one always meddled with, drugged up, poked around having instruments inserted enough is enough leave womens bodies alone, and if men (even if it were a small minority it would be worth it, to benefit not just those men but also the WOMEN who are their partners [if only a small minority of women used the HBCP we would still consider it worth it right?]) ANY men, are willing or able to take the hit and be the ones to take responsibility for reproduction (haven’t we been wanting them to do this for ages anyway? Isn’t this why we needed a female hormonal contraceptive pill in the first place? Why should we wait untill an unwanted pregnancy occurs to ask men to take responsibility for that pregnancy when they should be able to take responsibility and actively seek to prevent it occuring altogether?) Frankly I’d love to have one less thing to worry about.
    I have no idea why a man should feel immasculated by such a thing, it takes a real man to take control of his body like that, and in my opinion how can it be likened to the female pill when the research to make it and the way it will work to cause effect will have to be wildly different to get around the physiological differences? They will be completely different drugs working in completely different ways.
    I say hurry up with the male pill already! I have to get an IUD fitted soon, “yay can’t wait to feel like a dehumanised slab of meat again on a doctors table getting poked around and artificial crud stuffed up me again”… said no woman ever! :P

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