Male Contraceptive Gel
New preliminary findings show promise in the field of male contraceptives, through the use of a new contraceptive gel. If further studies establish that the gel is effective, male patients will have an alternative to condoms and vasectomy. The first studies show that the topical application of the new gel decreases the number of sperm cells but does not completely eliminate them. This means that the risk of pregnancy is only reduced, not excluded.
The gel, called Nestorone, is a combination of synthetic progestin and testosterone. This is the first time that this combination has been used under the form of a topically applicable gel. Prior studies included the use of the combination as a patch or even in an injectable form.
According to Dr. Christina Wang, the lead author of the study, and her fellow co-researchers, supplementary testing is needed before the new gel can be available for the large public. Dr. Joseph Alukal from the NYU Langone Medical Center believes that most men will be more than interested in using the new contraceptive method, as most men are worried about unexpected and unwanted pregnancy. Dr. Alukal is not part of the research team.
The current research has been presented in Houston, at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society. The gel was tested on two different locations. The testosterone component was applied on the arm whilst the progestin component was applied on the abdomen. Both gels were applied on a daily basis over a six month period. 56 male patients participated in the study. The study used three types of gels: two of the gels contained testosterone and different doses of synthetic progestin whilst the third gel contained testosterone in a combination with placebo gel.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, the normal concentration of sperm cells per millimeter is above 15 million. 89 percent of the patients who received the gels containing both active components have shown a sperm count of under 1 million per millimeter whilst only 23 percent of the patients using the gel containing placebo have shown the same modification. 78 percent of the patients using the gel containing the active combination have shown a complete decrease of sperm cells per millimeter, compared to only 23 percent of the patients using the gel containing placebo. Dr. Christina Wang explained that the combination of testosterone and synthetic progestin inactivates the hormones that control the production of sperm cells.
There are currently no known long-term side effects, other than a moderate acne, seen in 21 percent of the participants. Dr. Wang speculates that a decrease in the amount of testosterone in the gel might reduce this side effect. Dr. Alukal questions the reversibility of the effects.
Alongside further testing of the drug, Dr. Wang has planned early phase testing that will involve the use of dimethandrolone - a male hormone with higher potential than testosterone.
For the time being, the only available contraceptive methods for male patients are condoms and the vasectomy surgical procedure.