As the birth control pill marks its 50th birthday this month, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) announced today that it has received $1.5 million in grant funding to study a contraceptive for men that uses a combination of two hormonal gels applied to the skin of the arm and abdomen.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the birth control pill on May 9, 1960, giving women greater control over their reproductive choices and their lives.
Drs. Christina Wang and Ronald Swerdloff are LA BioMed principal investigators and directors of one of only two of the National Institutes of Health centers dedicated to clinical research on male contraceptives. They have conducted several studies of male contraceptives, including the current one.
Dr. Swerdloff, the director of the LA BioMed at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center's Male Contraceptive Clinical Trials Center, says the development of a male contraceptive will change men's view of their health and their role in reproductive decisions.
"Just as women gained greater control over their reproductive choices and their health with the advent of the birth control pill, a male contraceptive would get men more involved in their personal health care and would give them greater reproductive choices," said Dr. Swerdloff. "Men are less likely than women to see their physicians on a regular basis. If they relied on a male contraceptive prescribed by their doctor, men would be more likely to visit their physicians on a regular basis - as women on birth control pills currently do."
At LA BioMed, Drs. Wang and Swerdloff are currently enrolling 60 men between the ages of 18 and 50 in a study of a combination of hormonal gels applied to the arm and abdomen to see if they will decrease a man's sperm concentration and count to levels that would make him unable to cause a pregnancy.
The research volunteers should not wish to father a child during the course of the study. The study will compare two treatments - combined Nesterone - Gel and Testosterone Gel - to the use of Testosterone Gel alone to suppress sperm production in normal men.
"Male contraceptive clinical trials have tested the use of testosterone alone or with progestins to suppress the production of sperm in men in the short-term studies with fewer side effects," Dr. Wang said. "However, the use of an application of testosterone and a progestin on the skin as a potential way to deliver the hormones to the body has not been tested. This trial is a study of a testosterone gel, which was developed with testing at LA BioMed, to be used with a progestin gel called Nestorone to suppress sperm production. Upon stopping the application of the gel, the sperm production will return to the normal range."