As birth control method for men nears approval, major pharmaceuticals keep their distance

(REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)

After going through years of human trials, an injectable birth control method for men called “reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance,” or RISUG, is reportedly being submitted this year for regulatory approval. Despite the efficacy of the new method, a reversible process that involves injecting a polymer gel into sperm-carrying tubes in the scrotum, the product has reportedly been overlooked by major drugmakers. And while some experts cited development costs and narrow profit margins as barriers for pharmaceutical companies that might otherwise hope to bring the product to market, others have gone so far as to suggest that the novel contraceptive was being blackballed by higher-ups.

“The fact that the big companies are run by white, middle-aged males who have the same feeling — that they would never do it — plays a major role,” said Herjan Coelingh Bennink, a gynecology professor who helped develop the contraceptives Implanon and Cerazette while working for Organon International. “If those companies were run by women, it would be totally different.”

The new method, invented by 76-year-old biomedical engineer Sujoy Guha, reportedly boasts a 98 percent chance of preventing pregnancy without any major side effects. In the absence of interest from the pharmaceutical industry, Guha said that he had founded a startup to sell the product domestically, and that he was licensing the contraceptive to Parsemus Foundation, a U.S.-based nonprofit, for distribution at approximately $10 to $20 per person in low- and middle-income countries.

Guha has expressed disappointment at the lack of interest from major pharmaceutical companies, noting that his method, a one-time injection that can last years, was far more cost effective for poorer families than the ongoing costs of condoms or female birth-control pills. He added that his product could also make a major impact in condom adverse populations such as India, where condom use is reportedly at less than 6 percent.

According to the United Nations, only 8 percent of women worldwide rely on their male partner using a condom for contraception.

Read the full story at Bloomberg.


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