A new birth control pill for males has been found to be 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, with hopes the medication could bring greater balance to the burden of contraception.
Far fewer contraceptive options are available to men, with women typically bearing the brunt of birth control. The likes of oral contraceptive pills, injectable contraceptives and intrauterine devices can all cause a myriad of side effects, such as weight gain, mood changes, decreased libido and acne.
Alternatively, men can access single-use condoms, which must be used correctly to be effective at preventing pregnancy. According to Planned Parenthood, condoms have a 2 percent failure rate when used perfectly and consistently - but the typical failure rate is much higher, around 15 percent, with typical use.
Vasectomies, an elective surgical procedure for male sterilisation, is another option on the table. While the process can potentially be reversed, it is typically considered a permanent form of contraception, as the expensive reversal surgery is not always successful.
Now, a breakthrough non-hormonal male contraceptive pill has been found to effectively prevent pregnancy in mice without obvious side effects, with researchers hoping to begin human trials in the third or fourth quarter of 2022.
The lack of options available to males demonstrates the need for "an effective, long-lasting but reversible contraceptive, similar to the birth control pill for women," the team of scientists said on Wednesday (local time).
The scientists will present their findings at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society.
"Scientists have been trying for decades to develop an effective male oral contraceptive, but there are still no approved pills on the market," said Dr Abdullah Al Noman, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"Multiple studies showed that men are interested in sharing the responsibility of birth control with their partners."
Several compounds are currently undergoing clinical trials that target the male sex hormone testosterone - however, this could cause weight gain, depression and other side effects in males, side effects which are also associated with hormonal contraceptives in women.
"We wanted to develop a non-hormonal male contraceptive to avoid these side effects," explained Dr Noman, a graduate student in the Gunda Georg laboratory at the University of Minnesota who is presenting the findings.
Dr Gunda Georg, the head of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Minnesota, added: "Because it can be difficult to predict if a compound that looks good in animal studies will also pan out in human trials, we’re currently exploring other compounds as well."
Researchers are currently envisioning a possible timeline to market in five years or under.
"I'm optimistic this will move forward quickly," Dr Georg said. "There is no guarantee that it will work [in humans]... but I would really be surprised if we didn't see an effect in humans as well."