Male con­tra­cep­tive in­jec­tion ‘shows prom­ise’

Malta Independent - - HEALTH -

A hor­mone in­jec­tion has been shown to be a safe and ef­fec­tive method of con­tra­cep­tion - for men.

US re­searchers say the jab was al­most 96% ef­fec­tive in tests on around 270 men who were us­ing it, with four preg­nan­cies among their part­ners.

How­ever, a rel­a­tively high num­ber de­vel­oped side ef­fects, in­clud­ing acne and mood dis­or­ders.

Re­searchers have been in­ves­ti­gat­ing po­ten­tial for male hor­monal con­tra­cep­tives for around 20 years.

They have all been look­ing for an ef­fec­tive way of sup­press­ing sperm pro­duc­tion without caus­ing un­pleas­ant or un­bear­able side ef­fects.

Be­cause men con­stantly pro­duce sperm, high lev­els of hor­mones are needed to re­duce lev­els from the nor­mal sperm count of over 15 mil­lion per millil­itre to un­der one mil­lion/ml.

This study was pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Clin­i­cal En­docrinol­ogy & Me­tab­o­lism, and pub­lished by the En­docrine So­ci­ety.

It looked at men aged 18-45 who had been in monog­a­mous re­la­tion­ships for at least a year - and whose part­ners had agreed to take part.

The men’s sperm counts were checked at the be­gin­ning of the study, to en­sure they were nor­mal.

They then had two hor­mone in­jec­tions (pro­ges­terone and a form of testos­terone) ev­ery eight weeks, and were mon­i­tored for up to six months un­til their sperm count fell to un­der a mil­lion.

They were then asked to rely on the jab, which they con­tin­ued to have at the same in­ter­val, as their only form of con­tra­cep­tion dur­ing the ef­fi­cacy stage of the study, which lasted for up to a year,

Once they stopped having the in­jec­tions, they were mon­i­tored to see how quickly their sperm counts re­cov­ered.

Eight men had not re­cov­ered their nor­mal sperm counts a year after the study ended.

Dr Mario Festin, of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) in Geneva, who car­ried out the study, said: “The study found it is pos­si­ble to have a hor­monal con­tra­cep­tive for men that re­duces the risk of un­planned preg­nan­cies in the part­ners of men who use it.”

The re­searchers stopped tak­ing on new par­tic­i­pants in 2011 after con­cerns were raised about side ef­fects such as de­pres­sion and other mood dis­or­ders, as well as mus­cle pain and acne.

Such side ef­fects caused 20 men to drop out of the study and were re­ported by many oth­ers,

Dr Festin said other re­searchers were now look­ing at com­bin­ing dif­fer­ent lev­els of the same hor­mones, and dif­fer­ent ways of de­liv­er­ing them, such as gels.

He added: “This has been one step in a long jour­ney of find­ing the right com­bi­na­tion for male hor­monal con­tra­cep­tion.”

Al­lan Pacey, pro­fes­sor of an­drol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Sh­effield, said: “There is cer­tainly an un­met need for an ef­fec­tive re­versible con­tra­cep­tive for men, along the lines of the hor­monal con­tra­cep­tive for women.

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