Reliable birth control for men may soon be hitting the markets with the development of Vasalgel.
The Daily Beast describes Vasalgel as a non-hormonal polymer intended to block the vas deferens and prevent the flow of sperm. The polymer contraceptive is inserted directly into the vas deferens, through a one-time injection, where it is expected to last for an extended period of time. What’s more, the procedure is entirely reversible, as a second injection can be used to flush out the contraceptive and return the full function of a man’s reproductive system.
According to Parsemus, the NGO behind the development of Vasalgel, recent animal trials have proven successful. In Vasalgel’s most recent trial, three male baboons were fitted with Vasalgel contraceptives and moved into separate enclosures, each with 10-15 female baboons. After six months of uninhibited mating, Parsemus reported zero pregnancies. Parsemus has yet to determine whether or not the process is reversible for baboons, as it was for rabbits in previous animal trials, and plans to do so in October of 2014.
Following successful animal trials, what’s next for the fate of Vasalgel?
Currently, Parsemus is awaiting FDA approval to carry out clinical trials. Human trials would first be done in small numbers to ensure the device’s safety. Upon the successful completion of small trials, testing would move onto larger trials to determine the device’s efficacy. Because there is no precedent for any sort of reversible, non-chemical men’s birth control device before Vasalgel, testing is expected to be both comprehensive and lengthy, requiring many years of research and human trials. Additionally, Parmesus needs to publish its animal studies before it can even hope to gain FDA approval. According to health researchers, drugs and medical devices take an average of 12 years to reach the market, and Vasalgels’ expected release date of 2017 is merely wishful thinking.
Upon the release of a device such as Vasalgel, the question remains: why would anyone want one?
Men suffer from a lack of reliable birth control options. Vasectomies involve the cutting of the vas deferens, resulting in a man’s permanent inability to deliver sperm, and condoms are unreliable and considered undesirable by most men. Previous attempts at male hormonal contraceptive pills, similar to female birth-control pills, have been unsuccessful, as success rates have been nowhere near those of female birth-control pills--the rates necessary to gain FDA approval.
With the introduction of non-permanent medical devices such as Vasalgel, men are given greater flexibility and freedom when it comes to family planning, and the burden of family planning, previously shouldered entirely by women, is shared between both sexes.
Health researchers have expressed concerns that the negative externalities associated with increased amounts of unprotected sex, encouraged by Vasalgel, will outweigh the benefits attained by such devices.
While soon is a relative term, Vasalgel is certainly a significant step into the further research and development of reliable male birth control devices.