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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Good news, bad news...

So, on the one hand, I think this is a really good idea:

It could be the best thing to happen to men’s sex lives since the Pill — and most people have never even heard of it.

A potentially revolutionary method of male birth control — a single injection that’s 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy for a decade, and is accompanied by nary a side effect — is already in clinical trials in India and could be available here in just a few years.

A single advocate won’t give up until RISUG, the clunky acronym for “reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance,” is a Food and Drug Administration-approved option for couples looking to knock boots without getting knocked up.

Elaine Lissner’s interest in male contraceptives was piqued in the late 1980s when, as an undergraduate at Stanford, she was told during an academic lecture that she and her female peers “would never see a male contraceptive akin to the birth control pill in our lifetime.”

At the same time, Lissner was seeing female friends struggle with the uncomfortable side effects of contraceptives, and had her own pregnancy scare at 19.

“I realized there must be a better answer, but it wasn’t being pursued,” Lissner, who lives in San Francisco, told The Daily. “Ideally, I want to see a contraceptive supermarket for men the way there is for women.”

On the other hand, there is a tiny catch still to be worked out:

Some American experts, though, are concerned that RISUG might not be reversible: Guha has informally reversed the injection in a handful of men and hundreds of animals, but hasn’t published a formal study on the process.

“Certainly it’s a promising project, but there’s a lot we don’t know,” Colvard said. “Without safe reversal, men are just as well off getting a vasectomy.”

That’s exactly where Lissner plans to start: Animal trials are expected to start this year, and the first clinical trial of Vasalgel will kick off in 2012, with male participants open to permanent infertility on the off chance that the injection can’t be reversed.

Yeah, I mean, permanent sterility certainly counts as "birth control", but isn't really what we're going for. Still, if the kinks can be worked out, I would love for there to be more options that men can use* to prevent pregnancy, thereby taking the onus off** of our partners.*** And if nothing else, the more we can control our fertility, the fewer women there will be who have to deal with something like this.

* Other than condoms, I mean, which both men and women frequently dislike for a whole variety of reasons. That said, I don't think the heroic rubber is going anywhere soon given that unlike many other methods of contraception, it can also block the transmission of STIs.

** Of course, I suspect a woman would really have to trust her partner in order to assume that he's really using an injectable form of birth control that she can't verify. Unfortunately, what starts as a medical problem eventually turns into a social problem.

*** My wife and I in particular are looking forward to the day when we've had all the kids we intend to and I can get a vasectomy, thereby eliminating the need for all those peculiar birth control contraptions.

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