Monday, June 20, 2011

Planned Parenthood and Male Birth Control

Posted By on Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 3:08 PM

Is this birth control or Viagra? Does it matter?
  • Is this birth control or Viagra? Does it matter?
As Planned Parenthoods around the country continue to be defunded, and states chip away at Roe v. Wade, it's becoming increasingly clear that conservatives are aiming to make birth control as difficult to get as possible. For women without health insurance, Planned Parenthood is one of the few places to get a pap (which is required every year to get a birth control prescription) and affordable birth control pills.

Of course, condoms are cheap and widely available, and let's all practice safer sex, please. But for monogamous couples or women with a belt-and-suspenders mentality to pregnancy prevention, hormonal birth control—whether pills, shots, nuvaring, or whatever—remains the best, cheapest, most easily reversible choice. That's a not-insignificant financial burden even for someone with insurance, and of course one that women have had to exclusively bear. We've been hearing about male hormonal birth control forever, but did you know that it sort of already exists? What? Yeah. But not here.

There actually IS a male contraceptive implant similar to Norplant, which was 100% effective in preventing pregnancies among its human trial subjects. But the companies that produced it, Schering and Organon, stopped investigating male contraceptives after Schering was bought by Bayer. There's another contraceptive on the horizon though: RISUG. RISUG, which stands for Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance, is a one-time injection directly into the vas deferens. The injection coats the inside of the vas with a polymer that breaks the sperms' tails and ruptures their cells, making them incapable of fertilization. In effect, it's a vasectomy without the surgery. RISUG is being tested in India, and so far, patients report is is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy and there are no adverse effects.

Huh. Sounds good to me. I will admit, I don't love being on or paying for birth control. But apparently, for once, dudes aren't that psyched about being in charge.

The problem in the US is two-fold. Firstly, pharmaceutical companies are not pushing on research to make solutions like RISUG available in the US. This means that most of the R&D funds are coming from the National Institute of Health. Secondly, there's a perception that men don't actually want to shoulder more of the responsibility for family planning because the benefits to them are not as pronounced as they are to women. This is undoubtedly one of the things hindering private investment. Douglas Colvard, a program director at a reproductive health non-profit, told Scientific American that at the end of the day, it's not men who are going to get pregnant. A man can still walk away from a pregnancy. And for that reason, a successful male contraceptive might have to offer benefits other than birth control, such as reduced hair loss or increased metabolism.

Uh huh. So guys only want to spend money and take a pill if it also gives them their hair back? Or maybe they're saving all their cash up for ED medication later in life. Certainly that is where the R & D dollars have been going. Which, Viagra won't increase your metabolism, but it might make you lose your hearing. Bros, you got weird priorities sometimes.

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