Friday April 19, 2019

New male birth control pill found safe and effective

All participants passed safety tests, including markers of liver and kidney function, the study said

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Contraception
Male contraceptives proved safe and effective.
  • Researchers have found oral contraceptive for males
  • The experiment has been successful
  • The pills are effective and successful in their operation

In a major step forward in the development of a once-daily “male pill”, researchers have found an experimental oral contraceptive to be safe in men with hormone responses consistent with effective contraception.

The findings presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Chicago showed that the new pill — called dimethandrolone undecanoate, or DMAU — appears to be safe when used daily for a month.

The pills are effective with no harmful effects. Wikimedia commons

Like the pill for women, DMAU combines activity of an androgen (male hormone) like testosterone, and a progestin, and is taken once a day, said the study’s senior investigator, Stephanie Page, Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“Many men say they would prefer a daily pill as a reversible contraceptive, rather than long-acting injections or topical gels, which are also in development,” Page pointed out.

Progress toward a male birth control pill has been stymied because, according to Page, available oral forms of testosterone may cause liver inflammation, and they clear the body too quickly for once-daily dosing, thus requiring two doses a day.

Also Read: Injectable Male Contraceptive likely to Lower Unwanted Pregnancies

However, DMAU contains undecanoate, a long-chain fatty acid, which Page said slows this clearance. The study included 100 healthy men between ages 18 and 50 years. The investigators tested three different doses of DMAU — 100, 200, and 400 milligrams, or mg.

A total of 83 men completed the study, including giving blood samples for hormone and cholesterol testing on the first and last day of the study.

At the highest dose of DMAU tested, 400 mg, participants showed “marked suppression” of levels of their testosterone and two hormones required for sperm production. The low levels, Page said, were consistent with effective male contraception shown in longer-term studies.

These pills are revolutionary in the world of contraceptives.

“Despite having low levels of circulating testosterone, very few subjects reported symptoms consistent with testosterone deficiency or excess,” Page said.

All groups taking DMAU did have weight gain and decreases in HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or “good”) cholesterol, both of which Page said were mild.

All participants passed safety tests, including markers of liver and kidney function, the study said. “These promising results are unprecedented in the development of a prototype male pill,” Page said. “Longer term studies are currently underway to confirm that DMAU taken every day blocks sperm production,” she added. IANS

Next Story

State Legislature Working on Easy Access to Birth Control

The measures are seeing bipartisanship support in those states and come after similar laws have passed in nearly a dozen other states

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birth control
Several Republican-led state legislatures are advocating for women to gain over-the-counter access to birth control in what they say is an effort to reduce unplanned pregnancies and abortions, Ames, Iowa, March 15, 2019. VOA

Several Republican-led state legislatures are advocating for women to gain over-the-counter access to birth control in what they say is an effort to reduce unplanned pregnancies and abortions.

State legislatures in Arkansas and Iowa, for example, are working on legislation that would allow women older than 18 the ability to receive birth control from a pharmacist rather than going first to a doctor for a prescription. The measures are seeing bipartisanship support in those states and come after similar laws have passed in nearly a dozen other states.

Arkansas legislation

Arkansas state Representative Aaron Pilkington, a Republican, said he started working on the bill after seeing “about a 15 percent decrease of teen births” after other states passed similar legislation. Arkansas consistently has one of the highest birth rates among teenagers in the country.

Pilkington said support for the bill “in many ways, it’s very generational. … I find that a lot of younger people and women are really in favor of this, especially mothers.”

birth control
Iowa state legislators have proposed a bill that would allow women to access birth control directly from a pharmacist, Ames, Iowa, March 15, 2019. VOA

According to the Oral Contraceptive (OCs) Over the Counter (OTC) Working Group, a reproductive rights group, more than 100 countries, including Russia, much of South America and countries in Africa, allow access to birth control without a prescription.

Women are required to get a doctor’s prescription to obtain and renew birth control in most of the U.S., much of Europe, Canada and Australia, according to the reproductive rights group.

Pilkington, who identifies as a “pro-life legislator,” said he brought the bill forward partly as an effort to counter unwanted pregnancies and abortions. The bill would require a doctor’s visit about every two years to renew the prescription.

Rural residents

Arkansas has a population of about 3 million people, a third of whom live in rural areas. Pilkington said the bill would likely benefit women who reside in rural areas or those who have moved to new cities and aren’t under a doctor’s care yet.

birth control
Arkansas state Rep. Aaron Pilkington, a Republican, said he started working on a bill easing women’s access to birth control after seeing “about a 15 percent decrease of teen births” after other states passed similar legislation. VOA

“A lot of times when they’re on the pill and they run out, they’ve gotta get a doctor’s appointment, and the doctor says, ‘I can’t see you for two months,’” he said. “Some people have to drive an hour and a half to see their PCP (primary care physician) or OB-GYN (obstetrician-gynecologist), so this makes a lot of sense.”

What Pilkington is proposing is not new. In 2012, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorsed the idea of making birth control available without a prescription. Today, at least 11 other states have passed legislation allowing for patients to go directly to the pharmacist, with some caveats.

In October, ahead of a tight midterm race, Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds raised a few eyebrows when she announced she would prioritize over-the-counter access to birth control in her state. Like Pilkington, she cited countering abortion as a main driver behind the proposed legislation. The bill closely models much of the language used in another Republican-sponsored bill In Utah that passed last year with unanimous support.

The planned Iowa legislation comes after the Republican-led state Legislature passed a bill in 2017 that rejected $3 million in federal funds for family-planning centers like Planned Parenthood.

birth control
FILE – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her inaugural address in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 18, 2018. VOA

The loss of federal funds forced Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit organization that provides health care and contraception for women, to close four of its 12 clinics in the state.

Since then, Jamie Burch Elliott, public affairs manager of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Iowa, said that anecdotal evidence shows that sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies have gone up.

“With family planning, it takes time to see the impacts, so there are long-term studies going on to really study the impact of this,” said Burch Elliott. “Right away, we saw STI (sexually transmitted infections) and STD (sexually transmitted diseases) rates go up, particularly chlamydia and gonorrhea. As far as unintended pregnancy rates, we are hearing that they are rising, although the data is not out yet.”

Pro-life pushback

So far the Iowa legislation has received some pushback, mostly from a few pro-life groups.

The Iowa Right to Life organization has remained neutral on the issue of birth control, but the Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the bishops of Iowa, and Iowans for LIFE, a nonprofit anti-abortion organization, have come out against the bill, citing concerns that birth control should not be administered without a visit to a physician.

birth control
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, center, talks with State Rep. Heather Matson, right, at the Ankeny Area Democrats’ Winter Banquet, Feb. 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. VOA

Maggie DeWitte, executive director of Iowans for LIFE, also pointed out that oral contraception can be an “abortifacient [that] sometimes cause abortions,” challenging Reynolds’ motivation for introducing the bill.

On the other hand, Iowa family-planning organizations and Democratic legislators are mostly on board.

ALSO READ: Researchers Probing if Tobacco’s Native Forms Less Harmful

“Policywise, I think this is really good,” said Heather Matson, a state representative of a district located just outside the state capital, Des Moines. She appreciated that insurance will still cover birth control, but took issue with the age restriction, saying she would like to see an option for people younger than 18. “Is it exactly the bill that I would have written, if given the opportunity? Not exactly.”

“Policywise, I think this is really good,” said Heather Matson, a state representative of a district located just outside the state capital, Des Moines. She appreciated that insurance will still cover birth control, but took issue with the age restriction, saying she would like to see an option for people younger than 18. “Is it exactly the bill that I would have written, if given the opportunity? Not exactly.” (VOA)