Researchers developing male birth control pill

Spencer Kallick

With the number of pregnancies among young adults, researchers have been investigating new options for the sexually active. While the female birth control pill has been around since the 1960s, no such pill option currently is available to men.

However, John Amory, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington, is trying to change that.

“My goal is to develop a reversible male contraceptive for men,” said Amory in a recent phone interview.

The “male pill” would be analogous to the pill for women, but in the man’s case it would suppress sperm and therefore inhibit pregnancy.

“The pill uses testosterone plus progesterone,” said Amory. “We haven’t had 100 percent sperm suppression yet in our studies, but we are working on new formulas to try to get all men to suppress all the way.”

Even though the male pill is still in its testing stage, it is creating positive feedback among Northwestern students.

“I think it’s a great idea because it would shift some of the responsibility from women to men,” said Malorie Medellin, a Medill freshman. “Guys could actually do something to help out.”

NU men also agree that such a medical advance would be a beneficial.

“Both people in a relationship have the responsibility to prevent an unwanted pregnancy,” said Adam Eisenstein, a Weinberg freshman.

Once the pill is fully developed, it would not be for the casual user, warns Amory. A man would need to be on the pill for about two to three months before sperm count would fall to zero and pregnancy would be completely preventable. Condom use is strongly advised. After this period, users would need to regularly sustain pill use to prevent pregnancy in the future.

“The end result would be that if someone is in a mutually monogamous relationship, there would be no need to use a condom,” said Amory.

On a college campus like NU’s, where most undergraduates are not looking to start families, the male pill would be seen as way to reduce the uncertainty surrounding sexual activity.

“As a former health aid, I think it’s a good way to increase sexual prevention,” said Charles Osterberg, a Communication senior.

Some students voiced concern that the male pill would do more than just reduce sperm count.

“I would take it as long as it didn’t mess with any other part of my body systems,” Eisenstein said.

The male pill does have some minor side effects, said Amory, including an increase in muscle mass, a decrease in fat mass, a 10 percent reduction in HDL (the “good fat” in one’s body) and a slight increase in oiliness of the skin.

Nevertheless, researchers are continuing their studies, moving closer to making the male pill available to the public. Amory said he expects that the pill will take about five to 10 years to be approved in its final form by the Food and Drug Administration.

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Quick facts:

 A male birth control pill is in the testing stages at the University of Washington but could take some years to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

 The pill would suppress sperm to prevent pregnancy.

 Minor side effects seen in the tests include a decrease in fat mass and a slight increase in skin oiliness.