A piece by Helen Puttick, Scottish Health Correspondent, in today’s Times:
Researchers have hailed “exciting” initial trials of a male contraceptive gel but pleaded for more couples to help them test a system that could revolutionise birth control.
A hundred men around the world have volunteered to use the product daily, pushing their sperm count to zero. In Edinburgh, where recruitment has been particularly successful, 40 couples have come forward to use the gel in place of other forms of contraception.
John Reynolds-Wright, a research fellow at the centre for reproductive health at Edinburgh University, which is conducting the research with colleagues at the University of Manchester, said the team was looking for 400 couples worldwide to try the gel.
Men have to apply the gel to their upper arms and shoulders every day and attend monthly clinics to have their sperm count checked. The hormone treatment switches off sperm production but does not affect libido.
“The side-effects have been the ones we have anticipated from earlier versions of the study,” Dr Reynolds-Wright said.
“People got some spots, particularly on the area where the gel goes on, and some mild mood changes. Not depression, but more mild irritability. As people have been using the gel this has improved over time.”
Early results indicating how well the gel works will not be ready until next year, when the trial participants have been using the gel for 12 months. However, Dr Reynolds-Wright, said: “It is certainly looking exciting in terms of the results we are getting so far.”
Noting that women have a range of birth control options but there is little choice for men, he said: “Providing men with a bigger range of contraceptives is going to allow more men to access contraceptives and take responsibility for their reproductive health.
“We still have in the UK one of the highest unplanned pregnancy rates in Europe, so there is still a contraceptive need out there which is not being met with the current methods available.”
The study is seeking men aged 18 to 50 who are in stable relationships with women aged 18 to 34. More details can be found on the Edinburgh University website or by calling 0131 242 2669.
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