Male Birth Control May Be On The Market As Soon As 2017
Not so fast, condoms. You've still got a job to do.
Long-term and inexpensive male birth control has been scientifically feasible since Indian doctor Sujoy Guha first began clinical trials 15 years ago. Not surprisingly, though, slowing sperms’ roll hasn’t had the profit potential to interest pharmaceutical companies; why sell one long-lasting and relatively cheap contraceptive to men when the industry can make its nut pushing pills on men’s partners every month instead? But thanks to the non-profit Parsemus Foundation, the birth control field might be on the cusp of becoming far more egalitarian–starting as soon as 2017, a reversible and non-hormonal male contraceptive may soon be on the shelves of a pharmacy near you.
In a press release from September 4th, the Foundation described exciting updates in the development of male birth control option “Vasalgel”:
Three baboon subjects from the original study have now had Vasalgel for 6 months… To make sure that it is still working prior to reversal, we decided to give all of the males an opportunity to mate with females to ensure that no pregnancies occur. Each of the three male baboons was moved into enclosures with 10-15 females (yes, that’s 10-15 each!) a month ago. And the good news? So far no pregnancies. But they will remain with the females for at least a few more weeks just to be sure.
Vasagel works by being injected directly into the vas deferens, much like a temporary (and scalpel-free!) vasectomy. To reverse the procedure, the polymer contraceptive is simply flushed out via a second injection (the Parsemus Foundation’s baboons will have their birth control reversed next month, and prior studies on rabbits proved successful).
Parsemus hopes to start human trials next year, and says on their FAQ page that “if everything goes well and with enough public support, Vasalgel will be on the market as soon as 2017.” That caveat is unfortunately necessary–the Foundation’s work is supported by donations and crowdfunding, and there are plenty of financial reasons alone why companies are reluctant to help develop long-lasting male birth control (particularly an affordable option like Vasalgel, which the Foundation estimates will cost “less than a flat screen TV”).
If Vasalgel does make it on the market in the next three years, the contraceptive’s political impact on both a personal and nation-wide scale could be staggering. Not only will the financial and physical burden possibly be divided a little more evenly between partners, but it’s difficult to imagine that primarily-male institutions like the Supreme Court wouldn’t have to confront the double-standard inherent in some legislation. After all, even Hobby Lobby covers employee’s vasectomies; it’s not too far of a leap to imagine them supporting a temporary version of the same. Will that lead to a more empathetic and egalitarian view of contraception over all? Here’s hoping.
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