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!