As University of Minnesota students reach for condoms to have sex, one professor is on the verge of creating a male contraception similar to the female birth control pills.
The University’s College of Pharmacy Department of Medicinal Chemistry head Gunda Georg is working with a team of scientists to develop Gamendazole, a drug that may give males an alternative to condoms and vasectomies.
The drug has shown effectiveness in tests on rats, rabbits and non-human primates, Georg said.
The research team will soon begin requesting approval from the Food and Drug Administration to test the drug in a clinical setting.
Georg said the drug will be a “reversible” alternative to permanent vasectomies because men will be able to take the pill to temporarily minimize fertility and can regain fertility if they stop taking it.
The drug would give people another option to plan pregnancy, she said.
Gamendazole faces a long road to the pharmaceutical market because it’s designed for healthy individuals, Georg said.
“Usually when you develop a drug, it is for a disease,” she said, “and certainly fertility is not a disease.”
She said the drug has to be completely free of side-effects, such as potential sperm damage, before being released onto the market.
“This drug has to be absolutely clean,” Georg said, “and that’s a very high hurdle to take.”
Developing new male contraceptives has been historically slow because it’s much more difficult to block sperm than eggs, Georg said.
Every milliliter of semen produced has 15 to 200 million sperm, she said.
“That gives you an idea [of] how difficult that might be to control as opposed to controlling one egg.”
She said while there’s a perception that men will not want to use a contraceptive pill, many males have responded to studies on how they would want to take it.
“I think that men are actually more willing to do this than a lot of people think.”
Condoms for now
While researchers continue developing the male birth control pill, students at the University turn to condoms as their main source of contraception.
Among sexually active University students, about 60 percent reported using a condom the last time they had intercourse, according to Boynton Health Service’s 2010 College Student Health Survey report.
Condoms are the most common method used by University students to prevent pregnancy, followed by birth control pills, according to the report.
“Sexual health is an important part of healthcare,” said Student Health Advisory Committee member Lauren Beach. “It’s important that we raise awareness over ways that people can protect themselves.”
Health and wellness junior Amy Whitburn said it’s important to educate students on sexual healthcare products because not every student comes to college aware of them.
“A lot of people come from high schools or places that they don’t have comprehensive sex [education] and in college people are starting new experiences,” Whitburn said. “If they haven’t had a condom demo or they haven’t have some sort of experience with sexual health … that can lead to a lot of issues.”
Whitburn works as a coordinator for Sexual Health Awareness and Disease Education, a group sponsored by Boynton that works to inform students on sexual health.
During the 2011 to 2012 academic year, SHADE handed out more than 100,000 condoms to students on campus.
“The fact that it’s that popular of a program demonstrates that it’s an incredibly important part of public health outreach and services on campus,” Beach said.