Male contraceptive pill just a matter of money

Video by Andrea Thiis-Evensen.

By NELL O’SHEA CARRE and AMBER SCHULTZ

A hormone-free contraceptive pill for men could be on the market within the next five to 10 years, with researchers saying the only thing holding them back is a lack of funding.

Researchers at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences recently received a $100,000 grant from US nonprofit organisation the Male Contraception Initiative to help develop the pill.

Dr Sab Ventura

Lead researcher Dr Sab Ventura said the grant was being used in drug development, but more funds were needed for animal and human trials.  

“The more funds we get, the faster it gets developed,” Dr Ventura said.

“You might think there’s adequate contraception already, but the World Health Organisation said that last year there were 75-80 million unintended pregnancies. That’s still a big number, and we want to try and reduce that.”

Dr Ventura said other forms of hormonal male contraceptives had been developed, however, many men found the side effects of these “intolerable” and did not want to take it.

“Because it’s non-hormonal, it should have a lot less severe side effects than what you get with female contraceptive pills,” Dr Ventura said.

The hormone-free pill aims to block the transport of sperm without affecting its maturation or development.

Ideally, the pill will be taken orally on a daily basis.

The Male Contraceptive Initiative aims to make the pill readily available for sale in Australia, with proceeds reducing the cost of the pill in poorer nations.

“They’re hoping to make profit from developed countries and use that profit to make it very cheap or even free for developing countries,” Dr Ventura said.

Dr Ventura also said the pill would allow couples more choice in who took responsibility for contraception, depending on who was most affected by negative side effects.

“There’s a lot of social science literature that says that [young women] are willing to trust their partners to start taking responsibility for their contraception,” he said.

Oxfam senior researcher Dr Chrisanta Muli, who specialises in gender inequality in developing nations, said the pill would prompt men to think about reproductive rights rather than just leaving it to women.

“It will start to shift the dynamics that [contraception] is a responsibility for women,  particularly in a developing context.”