Birth control pill
Illustration shows a pack of birth control pills, in Philadelphia. Reuters/HANNAH BEIER


  • The contraceptive prototype pill is non-hormonal
  • It could lead to a major breakthrough in the development of male contraceptives
  • The drug has been successfully tested on mice

Scientists revealed that they are working on a male contraceptive pill prototype that could stop sperms from being able to swim.

According to scientists, this non-hormonal contraceptive pill has the potential to be effective and safe to use for men. This could be a major breakthrough in the development of male contraceptives and a much-needed addition to condoms or vasectomy, which are currently the only viable options available to men.

Tests on mice suggested that it keeps sperms stunned for at least a few hours, stopping them from reaching the egg. Scientists said the contraceptive has a real possibility of being an 'on-demand' male contraceptive in the future.

The prototype is still under trial and more tests are planned to research its effectiveness and effects. Scientists will be conducting trials on rabbits before making it available for human trial tests.

The pill is intended to be consumed an hour before indulging in sex and to keep track of the time to know when its effects wear off.

How does the contraceptive work?

This new prototype, unlike female contraceptives, is non-hormonal. This means that it does not have any hormonal effects on the body. Scientists said that it will not damage testosterone or cause any male hormone deficiencies or side effects, which is one of the biggest advantages of the approach they are exploring.

As per the scientists, the cell pathway or a 'sperm-swim' switch they are targeting is a cellular signalling protein called soluble adenylyl cyclase or sAC. The intention of the experimental male pills is to block or inhibit the sAC. When this enzyme is switched off, it renders the sperm unable to move.

Details about the ongoing research

In an early study conducted on mice, which was published in the journal Nature, a single dose of the drug known as TDI-11861, was able to immobilise sperms before, during, and after mating. The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and showed that the drug remained effective for around three hours. Furthermore, it had completely worn off within 24 hours, after which, the mice sperm were swimming normally.

Dr. Melanie Balbach from Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, mentioned that the study showed promise as a reversible, easy-to-use contraceptive. If the drug proves to be effective on humans, it would allow men to make decisions about their fertility on a day-to-day basis, allowing them to be able to take it when needed.

However, though the contraceptive can act as birth control, it is important to note that it does not protect against sexually transmitted infections, experts warned. Condoms are still proven to be the most effective way to reduce or avoid contracting STDs.

"There is a pressing need for an effective, reversible, oral contraceptive for men and although many different approaches have been tested over the years, none has yet reached the market," said Allen Pacey, Professor of andrology at the University of Sheffield, according to BCC.

"The approach described here, to knock out key enzyme in sperm that is critical for sperm movement, is a really novel idea. The fact that it is able to act, and be reversed, so quickly is really quite exciting. If the trials on mice can be replicated in humans with the same degree of efficacy, then this could well be the male contraceptive approach we have been looking for," he added.

Prof. Pacey also mentioned that some tests had been conducted on human sperms in the laboratory and the results show that it works in exactly the same way. With the prospects available for the drug, he expressed that he is hopeful about being able to run human trials.

If successful, it offers a promising future for the male contraceptives market which is currently being dominated by the options available to women. However, these available options, along with being pricey, are confined to women alone and come with many uncomfortable and unwanted side effects.

The global market size of contraceptives was valued at approximately £18.85 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach over £25.2 billion by 2027.