Scientists Are One Step Closer to Creating the Male Pill

Scientists from the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy say they have developed a birth control product that works for men with no side effects. Eric Gaillard/ Reuters Pictures

Updated | Scientists from the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy have announced that they are making headway in developing a birth control pill for men.

The contraceptive pill has been available to women since the 1960s, but nothing exists on the market for men as of yet. Now, scientists claim to have made a breakthrough, modifying compounds to develop a product that works for men with no side effects.

Gunda Georg, leader of the research team, told The Times that the aim is to develop a pill just as effective and convenient as the female version.

"It would have to be soluble so it could be taken by mouth. It would start working fairly quickly and it wouldn't diminish libido. It would be safe even if taken for decades," she said.

"And because some users would eventually want to have children, its impact on fertility would be reversible, with no lingering ill effects on sperm or embryos."

The Minnesota scientists have built on progress that was made last June, when experts at the University of Virginia discovered a specific enzyme, ESP1, a protein that forms in the head of a man's sperm.

"Understanding at the molecular level exactly how the sperm is able to bind with and enter the egg opens opportunities to identify molecules that can disrupt or block the fertilization event," said John Herr, a professor of cell biology working on the University of Virginia's study, The Evening Standard reports.

Paul Casey, head of programs at U.K.-based sexual health charity FPA tells Newsweek he applauds the advances made in Minnesota: "New methods of contraception for men have been decades in the making. We hope any increase in contraceptive choices for men would help to dispel the myth that preventing pregnancy is only a woman's responsibility."

But one giant step towards male oral contraception doesn't mean women will soon be freed from having to take that tiny pill every day. According to a 2011 survey by Anglia Ruskin University, even if there was a male pill available, 52 percent of women think their partner would forget to take it.

This story has been updated to include a quote from the FPA.