KU researcher takes next big step in contraceptives; new pill for men may soon be ready for clinical testing
- on September 23, 2012
Many women would say, “It’s about time.”
A Kansas University researcher has helped develop a birth control pill for men, and he’s hoping it soon will be tested in human clinical trials.
Joseph Tash, director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Male Contraceptive Research and Drug Development at KU Medical Center, said he began his research in the late 1960s when he worked in a Chicago hospital’s obstetrics and gynecology department.
“I saw how the focus of reproductive responsibility seemed to be largely on the female, and I wanted to change that,” he said.
Tash said men have expressed a greater willingness to participate in the family planning decisions, but right now they have only three options: abstaining from sex, using condoms or getting a vasectomy.
For women, there are more choices available — pills, patches, shots and intrauterine devices — but many women can’t use them for a variety of health reasons.
Tash believes he has another option to add to the mix that’s 100 percent effective and has no side effects — at least in National Institutes of Health studies that have been done on nonhuman species.
“It looks very promising, but until we get into the FDA-regulated, pre-clinical tests, we don’t know for sure,” he said.
Tash said the pill is a chemical compound called H2-gamendazole that temporarily stops the production of sperm by the testes. Based on studies, Tash said, it takes about three weeks to stop sperm production and then eight to 10 weeks for full recovery of fertility.
Tash’s development has made national news, and in February, it even landed on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, where the show’s host, Stephen Colbert, poked fun at the research during his “Tip of the Hat/Wag of the Finger” segment.
“I thought it was very funny,” Tash said, laughing.
Now, Tash and his team are preparing to go to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with a new Investigational New Drug package. They will discuss what testing needs to be done before they can start human clinical trials.
“In most cases, healthy people will be taking those for a long period of time, and so in order to be successful they need to be at least as good as the best of the female contraceptives, which is the pill. So, it would need to be at least as good in terms of efficacy and safety,” he said.
Tash said new drugs typically are in human trials for about a decade, so the male birth control pill won’t be making its way to pharmacy shelves anytime soon.
When it does, Lawrence doctor Ryan Neuhofel said he would prescribe it.
“I think it would be a great option. It only increases the chances of effective birth control,” he said. “Birth control isn’t as effective as some may think, so by doubling up it improves the odds.”
Neuhofel said there are a host of reasons that women may not be able to tolerate birth control, including a history of blood clots or suffering from migraines.
“My wife would love it,” he said, of him taking a birth control pill. “Because she hates all of the side effects.”
— Health reporter Karrey Britt can be reached at 832-7190. Britt also is the editor of WellCommons.com, and you can follow her at Twitter.com/WellCommons.