Of mice and men

Carolyn Moynihan
30 Jun 2010
Reproduced with Permission

Why has there never been a male contraceptive pill? Probably because, knowing that women have stronger reasons to carry this burden, nobody was trying very hard. But now, 50 years after women started risking their health and happiness by swallowing synthetic hormones on a regular basis, Israeli scientists have announced that a male pill is in sight.

And -- what do you know? -- they have come up with a really nice one: non-hormonal, so without those nasty side-effects that women have put up with for so long; and long acting, so you don't have to think about it every day, as women have had to do.

Says Professor Breitbart of Bar-Ilan University: "I think most women would trust their man to remember once a month or once a quarter."

Would they?

Breitbart says that "men don't cope well with side effects" of hormonal contraception, which include loss of sex drive. Women, by implication, do. They also put up with weight gain and increasing their risk of breast cancer. But men, wellc So the researchers stuck at the job until they found an alternative -- a way of removing a vital protein in sperm.

We looked at a number of compounds that have no effect on male sex drive, but succeed in impairing the reproductive ability of the sperm.

Because there are no hormonal side effect we believe that it will be fairly easy to get approval for this pill.

So far, the wonder pill has been tested only on mice. It remains to be seen whether men will swallow it. After all, it is not they who might be left holding the baby or feeling driven to have an abortion. Conceivably, the male pill could work within a committed relationship, but it is difficult to see how it would make any difference to the large number of unplanned pregnancies resulting from casual and uncommitted relationships.

The fact is that even women are not diligent about contraception and experts on the subject are now saying that the female pill is past its use-by date. Long-acting jabs and implants and, of course, a growing array of "remedies" after intercourse, are the order of the day.

It would be surprising if men turned out to be more conscientious on this score than women.