Scots testers give male 'pill' thumbs up
A CONTRACEPTIVE jab for men has proved successful in preventing unplanned pregnancies after tests in Scotland, raising hopes it will be made available to more couples.
• Impressed: Bill and Rachael Crozier, with four-year-old son Bailey, from Kirkcaldy, have so far found the contraceptive jab they are testing to be effective. Photograph: Phil Wilkinson
The injections, which men have every two months, sparked major interest when Edinburgh University called for couples to help them test the product.
Now, with no pregnancies reported in the Scottish arm of the international study in the past year, researchers hope it could become a new contraceptive option with men taking on more of the family-planning burden.
One couple taking part in the study called for a jab to be launched on the market as soon as possible after their previous contraceptive methods led to them having three unplanned pregnancies.
The World Health Organisation trial, involving 200 couples around the globe, uses a combination of the hormones testosterone and progesterone which dramatically reduce a man's sperm count.
The contraceptive, given in the trial in two jabs, works by reducing sperm counts from above 20 million sperm per millilitre to zero, and to less than one million in others, below the viable threshold for a pregnancy. This result provides better contraceptive protection than condoms, and a similar success rate to the female pill.
Professor Richard Anderson, from Edinburgh University's reproductive and developmental sciences division, said: "The results are very encouraging and it has gone very well. Most of our couples will be finishing (the trial] over the course of the spring. A couple of other centres will go on the rest of this year, so it will be a while before we get a final analysis."
It will also still need to satisfy researchers that it is effective on a large scale and does not have any unwanted side effects.
A major barrier to the acceptance of male contraception has been the reluctance of men to undergo a daily ritual. But as the new injection technique only needs to be given every two months, it is hoped men will now accept a greater share of the responsibility for contraception. It might also prove useful for couples who have had problems with other forms of contraception, or women worried about links between the pill and cancer.
"The first study I was involved in in this field we had to give the men an injection every week, which was enormously tedious by comparison," Anderson said. "Every two months is more feasible."
One couple who took part in the trial are Bill and Rachael Crozier, from Kirkcaldy. Crozier, 38, a firefighter, said: "I wanted to see if it would work, but I also wanted to take part in something that, if it was successful, could be put on the market as a contraceptive for guys to use.
"We have got three kids of our own and each one of those kids has been conceived while we have been using contraception. I decided enough was enough and I could let my wife come off the pill while I did this."
As well as the pill, the couple had previously tried female contraceptive injections and the coil.
Crozier has been very pleased with how the male jabs have worked since starting the trial in March last year.
The couple, whose children are Dylan, eight, May, six, and Bailey, four, say that if the jab was to become available, they would continue to use it. "We will just have to go back to some other form of contraception," Crozier said.
Mrs Crozier said: "It has been brilliant. I just wish we could continue it. It has been one less thing that I have to worry about."
Many women were now on the pill for decades for around 20 years, she added. "That's a long time to be using a chemical system in your body and I think women go through quite a lot as it is with pregnancy and periods and giving birth. It would be great if men could take some of that responsibility on."
Tim Street, from the Men's Health Forum Scotland, welcomed trial's positive results. "A male contraceptive that actually works would be a great addition to the range of contraceptive choices already out there," he said.
"For men to be able to share the responsibility of contraception with their partners in a new way has to be beneficial for everyone.
"As an organisation that wants to support men to be more healthy in all aspects of their lives we welcome the progress that is being made with these trials, the one caveat being obviously that only condoms stop sexually transmitted infections, so this method of contraceptive will have to be marketed responsibly once it has been proved to be effective."
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