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There’s a Male Birth Control Shot That No One Is Talking About

Flying deep under the radar is discussion about an injectable birth control option for men. Yeah — an article was published on Wired in April, and then it quickly vanished into nothingness. But it’s true: An Indian scientist has been devising a birth control method for men that is basically a temporary vasectomy. No surgery, just an injection into the vas deferens (after a local anesthetic) that can be reversed with another similar injection. So, why wasn’t there a huge deal made about this?

While it’s certainly not a subject that has gone completely undiscussed, progress has been slow in finding an option that will not kill a man’s overall fertility or libido. As the Wired article puts it, “it’s much easier to control a single monthly event like ovulation than to try to stop the endless onslaught of sperm.” But in the meantime, women get to experiment with all kinds of fun things that may or may not cause our bodies to go haywire on a dime, and possibly kill our fertility or libido. Yay! But here’s the good news, a month later: This injectible option seems like a fair equivalent to a device like the birth control implant, aside from the, um, penile injection:

The substance that [was] injected was a nontoxic polymer that forms a coating on the inside of the vas. As sperm flow past, they are chemically incapacitated, rendering them unable to fertilize an egg.

Basically, it’s a filtering device for sperm. But instead of filtering out actual sperm, the substance kills the sperm’s fertility. And, as has been mentioned, that can be reversed with another injection. The process was originally known as RISUG (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance), and it is currently in Phase III clinical trials in India and boasting a 100% success rate with very little adverse reactions. And it is all the work of Indian scientist Sujoy Guha, who has been trying to perfect this method for 30 years. RISUG is both cheap and long-lasting (an injection can last several years), which is wonderful news for overpopulated countries, but does not appeal to pharmaceutical companies who are more interested in something expensive and numerous, as Canadian Ronald Weiss found when he tried to bring RISUG overseas.

However, Elaine Lissner, who first became involved with male contraception in the late 1980s, formed the Male Contraception Information Project and by 2001, she declared that RISUG was the most promising form of male birth control. So far, it has been she who has worked to bring RISUG to this side of the world, using her own invested funds to manufacture the substance and conduct research. But she will have to start from square one, repeating nearly all the progress made by Guha for the FDA. She is currently trying to raise the money ($4-$5 million) for the approval process and is seeking the support of huge names such as Planned Parenthood, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (which has already given her $100,000 to develop the substance for use in fallopian tubes — not sure why that had to come first, but I’m no expert), the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, and WomanCare Global.

And why has there been hardly any press about it? Jezebel notes that this article has only really started getting into the Internet ether a month after its publication. Are people really that uninterested in a possible birth control option for men? Really? Considering the success of RISUG, which Lissner renamed Vasalgel, it seems like something we should all be talking about, a lot. May the conversation commence!

(Wired via Jezebel via The Gloss)


  • Anonymous

    I heard it gives men cancer. That’ll sterilize ‘em for sure!

    “If you happen to survive this you’re certainly never going to reproduce! You know, because the radiation will have killed off all your sperm…”

  • Vic Horsham


  • Boredlizzie

    [citation needed]

  • Nick Gaston

    Low press either because of A) A traditional knee-jerk opposition to any method of hindering male fertility (read: potency, machismo. And by extension, on a psychological level, “life-force” and personal power) as opposed to the more “passive” female fertility; coupled with, sadly, a very archaic fear of the collective unconscious of the western world—namely, since this is a product of Indian science, that those people are threatening “our” ability to breed. A non-western but “comfortably” foreign origin of the discovery (such as a Russian, or east-Asian “honorary white” scientist) would have been bad enough, but from a man with a “bizarre” name and implicitly brown skin? It never stood a chance.

    Or, B) The media has trouble finding a delicate way to phrase “stab a needle into the scrotum.” And an accompanying infographic? Forget it.


  • Maverynthia

    Then again, there may be many men that are scared of injecting POLYMER into their bits. Just that word invokes thoughts of paints and other things.

  • Jonathan Clark

    May I humbly suggest another name that won’t make a patient feel that by taking the treatment that he is accepting subservience?  Please find a better name than one pronounced Vassal-Gel.

  • Anonymous

    I think the main issue here was touched upon in the summary above: big pharma fears. Nobody wants a drug that wasn’t developed in this country! Total bs but that’s the basic argument. Keep cheap and effective foreign drugs out so overly-complicated and expensive procedures can reign in the U.S. In the end, it always comes down to the money.

  • Anonymous

    Mr Morwen and I would be extremely interested in this, let me tell you. Me on hormonal birth control resulted in general unhappiness and chaos in our household. Condoms are low-tech, but they’re not as safe without a back-up.

  • Frodo Baggins

    Tell me when it comes in a daily pill. For now, I’ll skip the NEEDLE IN MY SCROTUM thank you very much.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t believe the funders for the US Foundation researching & trialing this contraception think that there would be low demand for it! Every male friend I have spoken to (except one) was extremely keen at having a more reliable method of birth control than condoms & really liked the idea of being in control of whether or no he has children or not. One of them “got trapped” by a woman who said she was on the pill when she wasn’t & now he has a child. He said he wished this was available 10 years ago. I think the demand for this non-harmful & 100% successful (in clinical trials since 1990) contraception would be phenomenal

  • Evie Tuesday

    RE your really stupid friend: Wether or not she is on the pill he should have used a condom. The Pill only protects from babies, not STI’s. Your friend is stupid, and unsafe.

  • Anonymous

    Very true Evie. He was very stupid. I’m not advocating that Risug (Vasalgel) should replace condoms. I think it would be an excellent back-up to be used with condoms should the condom fail.

  • Shard Aerliss

    Unfortunately, European and Japanese state funding for science and medicine has taken a huge hit recently… but then I suppose the FDA would still demand a whole plethora of tests be done again on American soil.

  • Shard Aerliss

    Female hormonal contraception + male hormonal contraception/RISUG + condom = pretty damn near 100% prevention of conception.

  • Mark Bannon

    The rumors of teratogenicity (causing cancer) are unfounded. They were made by a fundamentalist religious leader in an attempt to stop the development in India. The researchers proved the allegation false, and verified there findings with a lab in the USA. The compounds in the RISUG system do not cause cancer. 

  • Mark Bannon

    The daily pills drug companies in the US have researched tend to be far, far worse. Either they simply don’t work, like the sugar-replacement drugs, or they destroy your hormones in a huge way as they try to stop the constant process of sperm production. An outpatient procedure that would have you in and out of a doctor’s office in 30 minutes with no pain (thank you, anesthesia) and able to have sex LATER THAT DAY is awesome. And it’s not like you have to watch the doctor do it. 

  • Mark Bannon

    RISUG itself is a 100% prevention so far, per the studies. Color me excited, this could be one of those science fiction moments we pass. 

  • Steve Kerr

    If the FDA is being so Persnickety, why hasn’t it dawned on a bright spark to  get this added to Medical Tourism in India or for the truly fussy somewhere which has a slightly more palatable sales pitch such as Thailand?

  • Shard Aerliss

    So far in tests. It’s been given to 200 men, or there abouts? Trying NOT to imagine exactly how these tests are being carried out…

  • Shard Aerliss

    So far in tests. It’s been given to 200 men, or there abouts? Trying NOT to imagine exactly how these tests are being carried out…

  • Anonymous

    Not me, I’m more scared of a woman doing everything she can to ‘accidentally’ become pregnant. I’ve dodged that bullet before, would prefer not to take the chance in the future.

  • Anonymous

    Read the Wired article (the source article). It goes into detail: the trials are to cost $4-$5million and the Susan Buffet Foundation (sic) refuses to finance them- instead, preferring to finance completely nonesensical (sic) research into using this process in the fallopian tubes. What a complete waste of resources, time and energy- there must be some pure idiots running that foundation, for sure. It simply makes NO sense at all.

  • Anonymous

    Ms. Mary Sue here hasn’t exactly got her story straight- it IS a minor surgery. The needle does get used, but NOT through the scrotum: the scrote’s cut, the vas-def pulled OUT, injected APART (kinda outside) from the scrote and VOILA! no functioning sperm shall pass. So, technically, (or, to be fair, in fact) it’s an incision to the scrote and an injection to the vas def, mos def- fo sho’ (I read the Wired article pretty-damn-close).

  • Anonymous

    Tell that to the Nurse Practitioner I spoke to today at the family health clinic! Not ONLY did she preface her postulation as to why said foundation might want to focus on the fallopian tube process at the EXCLUSION of the more well-founded, promising ALREADY ROLLIN’ Vas Def process, but she said, “well, when men abandon the women, it’s always her responsibility…” and I replied, “you just said “when” instead of ‘IF’ “… and she just kept rollin’ with it. This exchange was after I’d tried to get another reproductive healthcare practitioner’s “professional” opinion and she called HERSELF a ‘Female Misogynist’. I took issue with that and eventually came up with “misandry” via google and wikipedia. I think she must have been a half-wit idiot, since- with all her hatred of men/boys and ‘love’ of women, supposedly, she’s just called herself a woman-hating woman. Anyway:  .  I would TOTALLY get this done TOMORROW. No MFin’ joke- despite what the minandrist NP had to say about 98% of men NOT taking responsibility for their birth control. Even if these people are seasoned experts, they’re still acting a fool.

  • Anonymous

    Everybody’s stupid, if one of us is stupid. Tone down the hatred, Evie- people make mistakes. Anyway: ‘glass houses’ and all, right? I’m sure you got a “plank in yo’ eye” just like the rest of us.

  • Anonymous

    I’m with Mark on this on, Shard: it’s lookin’ like the Vasagel/ RISUG is MORE effective than condoms and SAFER than a vasectomy- so far. Read the WIRED article.

  • Steve Austin

    Thanks for the information. Though I am not sure if it has been tested and passed by the FDA, but there are rumors of it causing cancer.SO I would request you all to be cautious please.
    male libido enhancer

  • Shard Aerliss

    Again; so far in tests, and condoms are a very ineffective method of birth control anyway. Wired article; TLDR… or in other words, my brain shut itself down half way through my double shift. Might get round to it Sunday.

  • Carlito Brega

    ok so?, They’re are rumors of the world ending next year, so whats ur point?.. be happy that these tests are even happening in this world.. 
      you come up with a way to prove the end of the world and then ill be cautious.

  • Bestella Zoka

    The clinical trials were stopped so they could refocus on the toxicology of the process in both Indian and FDA approved labs.
    No evidence of cancer or other toxic effects were found

  • Anonymous

    Count me as one male person who has been following this since I first read about it in WIRED, and would go get it done today if it was available here. This is the ideal form of birth control, apparently 100% effective, long-lasting AND easily reversible with no significant side effects. For someone like me in a long-term monogamous relationship with a partner who reacts poorly to hormonal birth control, I can’t imagine anything better.

    The only thing that would slow me down is that it requires surgery, but the benefits are way too high for me to seriously worry about that.