Healthy Living: UW researchers testing new contraceptive gel for men

Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine are in one of three U.S. cities testing a male contraceptive gel they call an important step in lowering the burden couples to share in contraception.  The expect to have results from the study in two to three years.

“The potential of this new gel is huge,” said William Bremner, UW professor of medicine. “There is a misperception that men are not interested in, or are even afraid of, tools to control their own fertility.  We know that’s not the case.”

Researchers say 40% of the worlds pregnancies are unplanned, and creating a male contraceptive is critical.    Men in the study apply the gel to their arms and shoulders once a day for 52 weeks.  Four hundred couples worldwide, including some in Washington State, will take part in the study.

"We think it's critical men have more contraceptive options," said Dr. Stephanie Page with the University of Washington.  "All men have now are vasectomies and condoms, so really not a lot of good reversible options."

So far, researchers say the side effects have been minimal.  They're looking at how the gel affects mood, body composition, sexual drive and performance.  After a six-month study, they say the results showed nothing concerning.

"In this case we give men testosterone and by giving them hormones we provide all the hormones they need in their blood stream," said Page.  "Without that, the sperm fail to mature."

If approved for broader use, researchers want to remind people that the gel would not replace condoms for overall sexual health and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

The University of Washington is still recruiting participants for the study.  If you'd like to read more, click UW Medicine male contraceptive trial.