A Male Birth Control Injection May Be About to Launch in India

But it's still got a ways to go to clear US regulations

male birth control
A prototype male contraceptive kit from all the way back in 2001.
SSPL/Getty Images
By Kayla Kibbe / November 28, 2019 5:08 am

The world has been waiting for a safe, reliable method of male birth control for some time, and India may be the first to make that reproductive dream a reality.

Officials at the Indian Council of Medical Research have completed clinical testing of a new injectable contraceptive for men, Vox reported.

“The product is ready, with only regulatory approvals pending,” New Delhi reproductive biologist Radhey Shyam Sharma told the Hindustan Times. “The product can safely be called the world’s first male contraceptive.”

The new contraceptive is a nonsurgical vasectomy called RISUG (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance.) The product works by injecting polymer gel into the vas deferens, the tube that transports sperm and semen out of the penis, thereby blocking sperm and reducing the chance of pregnancy. The RISUG injection is reportedly 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy and can last up to 13 years.

However, while it may seem like India has found the holy grail of reproductive medicine that has long eluded medical experts, the product is not without its side effects. A small clinical trial published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research revealed that while RISUG was effective at preventing pregnancy, side effects such as “mild scrotal enlargement,” scrotal pain and nodules at the injection site were all common among men who received the injection.

The relatively small clinical trial involving only 139 men doesn’t yield enough data for experts to fully understand the effects of the new contraceptive. While the Hindustan Times reported that the product could hit Indian markets within a matter of months, regulators would need to see much larger studies before the male birth control could be approved for men in the United States.

For the time being, male birth control remains the elusive green light at the end of reproductive medicine’s dock, so it’s probably best to ignore the hype for now.

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