Research

A recent study has shown promising results of a prototype male contraceptive pill.

Drs. Stephanie Page, professor and head, and Arthi Thirumalai, acting assistant professor (Metabolism, Endocrinology and Nutrition) presented the findings at the recent Endocrine Society annual meeting in Chicago.

Page and colleagues at the University of Washington and Harbor-UCLA conducted a study of 83 men between the ages of 18-50. The results showed that the male birth control pill was safe when given daily for 28-days. 

This new pill – dimethandrolone undecanote (DMAU) – lowered hormones to a degree very likely to be effective as a contraceptive in longer-term studies. Studies to demonstrate sperm suppression are about to get underway.

"Most hormone-based contraceptives, particularly those that are in development for men, require 2 hormones such as estrogen + progestin (female pill) or testosterone + progestin (other male contraceptives)," said Page. 

Dr. Stephanie Page
Dr. Stephanie Page

"This new compound, DMAU, is a single steroid that appears just as potent as using two steroids in other trials."

And this treatment did not have some of the common side effects associated with testosterone, such as mood changes or sexual function. Although the trial was only 28-days, DMAU also did not appear to damage the liver.

"This is a promising step forward for the development of a male pill because many oral androgens tested up to now (like methyltestosterone) have been associated with liver toxicity. And, unlike other oral testosterone derivatives, DMAU only needs to be dosed once a day."

Will men take the pill?

Researchers in this area are often asked if men will take a daily pill for contraception.

Currently, the only available, reversible contraceptive for men is the condom, which has many important features but is not the most reliable, nor effective contraceptive in real-world use, says Page. 

Dr. Arthi Thirumalai
Dr. Arthi Thirumalai

"Survey data on men across different countries, ethnicities and socioeconomic groups, show that men and couples are very interested in men taking responsibility for birth control," said Dr. Arthi Thirumalai, co-investigator of the study.

"It is unfair to discredit a whole gender as not being trustworthy enough to take that responsibility, when they are specifically telling us otherwise.

When men have more options we will have real world data as to their interest and engagement."

Next steps

The next step is a second study. "Larger, longer-term studies are clearly needed to address potential side effects," says Page. "This was a very small study and there is still a lot of work to be done."

Starting next month, Page and colleagues at the UW and UCLA will be testing DMAU on 100 men over a three-month period. 


Further resources:

View Dr. Page's Medicine Grand Rounds presentation from September 2017: "The male pill: Game changer or pipe dream?"