New research suggests that men may have difficulty taking a contraceptive pill regularly.
Researchers at Monash University have developed a male contraceptive pill.
Scientists mutated a gene that is described as fuel delivered to the engine room of a sperm’s tail.
“It’s one extra piece of the puzzle to finding out how sperm are made and has opened the door to see what else is going on,” said Monash University’s Professor Moira O’Bryan about her team’s discovery.
This isn’t the first breakthrough in male contraception this year. In earlier months, international scientists found that a birth control drug already being used can be utilized as a reversible contraceptive in male mice.
Although the drug is in its early stages of development, the battle between the sexes has already started.
Industry experts were asked if they believed males were reliable enough to take a contraceptive habitually.
“Given my partner, as wonderful as he is, has trouble remembering to take a multi-vitamin or to feed the cat on occasion, my instinctive response is ‘no’,” said Melbourne-based psychologist Dr. Traci Coventry. “To be clear though, I do not think the male contraceptive is a bad idea. On the contrary, I think it’s about time men stepped up and shared responsibility for contraception.”
Women have been in control of the birth control pill since its development in the 1960s. Therefore, it is difficult for many to imagine handing over the reins to the other sex.
“But I’ve never seen any evidence women are more likely to remember to take medication,” said Professor O’Bryan.
She referenced a study conducted by the University of Edinburgh showing that only two-percent of women trust that their male partners would consistently take the pill.
“The acceptance rate was high, so there is a market for it,” she said. “These are couples in stable relationships and he wanted to give her a rest from taking a contraceptive. A high percentage of women have side effects: swelling, mood swings – it’s not an ideal drug.”
The male contraceptive also shifts the ground on men taking control over situations where they have unintentionally become fathers. It also gives them more control in situations such as one-night stands and casual relationships. However, researchers still believe that women hold the most responsibility in accidental pregnancies.
Dr. Coventry said that more work needs to be done before both sexes can equally share the responsibility of a contraceptive pill.
“Until our culture moves toward sexual education of young men to the same standard as that provided for young women regarding sexual health, contraception, responsibilities of pregnancy or unwanted pregnancy, and associated emotional issues, the issue of women giving up full control of contraceptive to men is academic,” she said.
Despite the acceptance and demand by both sexes, pharmaceutical companies have been a force of resistance in getting the drug out to the public.
For several years, many drug companies have pulled funding toward the development of the drug including a hormone-regulated World Health Organization drug that was ready to be trialed on humans.
Experts report that “Big pharma” companies don’t believe that there is a market for the drug despite its popularity in research.
“It’s very disappointing for both consumers and researchers that the pharmaceutical industry has refused to rise to the challenge of taking new contraceptive options to market,” O’Bryan said. “We can all see what a positive impact new contraceptive options – male or female – could have globally.
“In a world where we still have crushing poverty and an emerging global warming problem, investment in facilitating the individual’s right to control their fertility would seem of obvious benefit.”