UMN experts available to discuss challenge of finding a male birth control pill
February 12, 2013
February is National Condom Month … and, if you didn’t already know, February 14 is National Condom Day.
When it comes to birth control for men, National Condom Day seems like an appropriate commemoration, because while women can choose from an array of female condoms, pills, contraceptive injections and more, men are limited to condoms or a more permanent option: the vasectomy.
So why, after years of research, do we still lack an in-between: a male birth control pill?
University of Minnesota experts Dr. Gunda Georg, Ph.D., professor and head of the university’s College of Pharmacy Department of Medicinal Chemistry, and Elaine Tyler May, Ph.D., Regents Professor of American Studies, can help shed some light on the answer to that question.
Georg is at the forefront of the development process for a non-hormonal pharmaceutical solution to stop sperm from ever reaching maturity. She recently received a $4.7 million grant for work on two female and eight different male contraceptive projects.
“In my opinion, this kind of pill is long overdue,” said Georg. “In the 1960s there was a prediction that the male pill would fall on the heels of the female pill, yet today we still don’t have one.”
Drug development is a tough business and, according to Georg, it becomes even tougher when it comes to giving medication to healthy people. No toxicity can be tolerated when it comes to male birth control and the pill’s effects have to be reversible. Eliminating undesirable side effects such as testes shrinkage is another challenge.
“With female birth control you only have to control one egg. In males you have to control millions of sperm. That may be part of the answer to why a male pill is more elusive than a female pill,” said Georg.
As for when we can expect to see a male contraceptive pill come to fruition:
“It’s tough to say,” said Georg. “We’ve heard a male birth control pill will be around in five to ten years for years. We feel good about what we have in hand now, but we don’t know yet if our non-hormonal compound will pass all the necessary tests required to move it along the approval process. But we’re hopeful.”
May is the author of “America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril and Liberation,” which explores the history of oral contraceptives since their approval by the Food and Drug Administration in 1960.
The book covers the hopes, dreams, ideals and fears that the 1960 release of the pill had on women, men and society in general. She notes that the pill was the first prescription given to healthy people and that women rushed to use it, despite possible side effects.
May writes in her book about the impact the pill had on men, an aspect that few scholars had previously addressed.
“Before the pill, all available contraceptives required the participation, or the knowledge, of a woman’s sexual partner. The pill made it possible for women to control their fertility without men’s involvement, or even their knowledge. Some men were relieved that women could now take full responsibility for birth control. But others found that loss of control threatening to their male egos,” said May.
To schedule an interview with Georg, contact Miranda Taylor, Academic Health Center, 612-626-2767, email@example.com. For interviews with May, please contact Steve Henneberry, University News Service, 612-624-1690, firstname.lastname@example.org.