Recent Developments in Male Contraception


Unplanned pregnancies are an ongoing global burden, posing health and economic risks for women, children, and families. Advances in male contraception have been historically stymied by concerning failure rates, problematic side effects, and perceived market limitations. However, increased interest in reliable and reversible options for male contraception have resulted in resurgent efforts to introduce novel contraceptives for men. Hormonal male contraception relies on exogenous androgens and progestogens that suppress gonadotropin production, thereby suppressing testicular testosterone and sperm production. In many men, effective suppression of spermatogenesis can be achieved by androgen-progestin combination therapy. Small-scale contraceptive efficacy studies in couples have demonstrated effectiveness and reversibility with male hormonal methods, but side effects related to mood, sexual desire and cholesterol remain concerning. A number of novel androgens have reached clinical testing as potential contraceptive agents; many of these have both androgenic and progestogenic action in a single, modified steroid, thereby holding promise as single-agent contraceptives. Currently, these novel steroids hold promise as both a “male pill” and long-acting injections. Among non-hormonal methods, studies of reversible vaso-occlusive methods (polymers that block transport of sperm through the vas deferens) are ongoing, but reliable reversibility and long-term safety in men have not been established. Proteins involved in sperm maturation and motility are attractive targets, but to date both specificity and biologic redundancy have been challenges for drug development. In this review, we aim to summarize landmark studies on male contraception, highlight the most recent advances and future development in this important field of public health and medicine.

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Correspondence to Stephanie T. Page.

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No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this manuscript. However, Stephanie Page and Arthi Thirumalai receive funding from the National Institutes of Health through Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for Clinical Evaluation of Male Contraceptives (Contract number: HHSN275201300025I). Stephanie Page is also supported by the Robert McMillen Professorship in Lipid Research. Stephanie Page was a one-time consultant for Clarus Therapeutics. Arthi Thirumalai has no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this manuscript.

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Thirumalai, A., Page, S.T. Recent Developments in Male Contraception. Drugs 79, 11–20 (2019).

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