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Male pill breakthrough
12.37 12-04-99 contraceptive inj. ac
Until now contraceptive hormone combinations had to be injected
Scientists have developed an easy-to-use contraceptive pill and hormone patch for men.

A three-month course of the pill used in combination with the hormone patch reduces the number of active sperm to zero.

However, once men stop taking the pill patch their sperm counts return to normal.

The success of clinical trials using the method brings an easy-to-take male contraceptive pill one step closer, researchers have said.

Family planning specialists said the research was a significant advance.

They said a male pill would offer men more choice and provide a clear alternative to vasectomies.

Hormone balance

Three Manchester researchers, Dr Morton Hair, Dr Kay Kitteridge and Dr Fred Wu, will reveal their findings at the British Endocrine Societies annual meeting in Bournemouth on Monday.

12.37 12-04-99 puff ac
They carried out their trials on 23 local men. The volunteers took a progesterone hormone pill, while wearing a body patch containing the sex hormone testosterone.

The volunteers were divided into three different groups, receiving low, medium and high levels of the progesterone pill.

Most of the men in the high and medium groups showed no active sperm after three months.

When they stopped taking the pill their sperm counts gradually returned to normal.

The method has still to be perfected, but Dr Wu believes that this work will lead to a more user-acceptable method of male contraception.

Until now progesterone-testosterone combinations have had to be injected.

Dr Wu said: "A significant number of women are unable or unwilling to use the female contraceptive pill long term.

"This method may allow their partners to take the responsibility for their contraception."

Uses for a perfected pill

A spokeswoman for the Family Planning Association said: "It's a very good advance, although we would like to see a greater number of men used in future studies."

It would extend choice for men and give them more responsibility, she said.

12.37 12-04-99 sperm
Sperm counts were lowered and then restored
"Of the 13 methods of contraception available at the moment, men can only use three. The others leave it up to the woman to take responsibility."

The FPA is optimistic that men would use a contraceptive pill, but it said not all men would be suitable candidates for it.

"We would expect a male pill to be used by men in a committed relationship who have already had as many children as they want, perhaps as an alternative to a vasectomy," the spokeswoman said.

However, it would not be suitable for men having casual sex because it would provide no protection against sexually-transmitted diseases, she said.

"For people who want to have sex with a number of partners we would recommend a condom to protect against STIs and HIV," she said.

  • Will men take the pill? Click here to have your say in Talking Point.
See also:

12 Jun 98 | Health
26 Oct 98 | Health
13 Apr 99 | Talking Point
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