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New Male Birth Control Gel Works Faster Than Similar Contraceptives

By suppressing sperm production sooner than other similar male birth control methods, a new male birth control gel could skyrocket to the limelight.

A new male birth control gel made of two hormones — testosterone and segesterone acetate (sold under the brand name Nestorone) — appears to work faster than other experimental hormone-based male contraceptives, according to new research.

Recent results from an ongoing multicenter phase 2b clinical trial show that the new birth control reduces sperm production in less time than other similar contraceptives in development.

“The development of a safe, highly effective and reliably reversible contraceptive method for men is an unmet need,” said senior researcher Diana Blithe, Ph.D., chief of the Contraceptive Development Program at the National Institutes of Health, in a news release. “While studies have shown that some hormonal agents may be effective for male contraception, the slow onset of spermatogenic suppression is a limitation.”

The study consisted of 222 participants who underwent treatment with the contraceptive gel for at least three weeks by applying it daily to each shoulder blade.

The gel contains 74 mg of testosterone and 8 mg of segesterone acetate — an ingredient that is also present in the Annovera vaginal birth control ring.

For the contraceptive to be deemed effective, participants had to have 1 million or fewer sperm per milliliter of semen.

While the majority of participants reached this sperm count by week 15, the median amount of time for sperm production to be suppressed was less than eight weeks.

In previous studies on male hormonal contraceptives given by injections, it took a median time of nine to 15 weeks for sperm to be effectively suppressed.

“A more rapid time to suppression may increase the attractiveness and acceptability of this drug to potential users,” Blithe said.

While testosterone treatment on its own does work to suppress sperm production, the addition of segesterone acetate reduces the amount of time needed to take effect as well as the amount of testosterone required. With this new contraceptive gel, testosterone levels remain high enough to maintain normal sexual function and other androgen-dependent activities.

Now that researchers have completed the sperm suppression part of the study, they will continue to test for effectiveness, safety, acceptability, and reversibility of contraception after stopping the treatment.

There are currently no male birth control options approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) outside of a vasectomy and using condoms, but a number of options are currently in the development phase and showing promise in clinical trials.

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