The researchers at National Institutes of Health are looking for volunteers to test a new contraceptive gel which when applied to shoulders of men over a period of time bring down their sperm count and reduces their ability to make women pregnant. This gel is being tried out by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development which is enrolling 400 couples at different test sites across the world to test its efficiency. They are also focusing on understanding if people will like it or use it as directed to achieve desired results. Chief of NICHD’s contraceptive development program Diana Blithe said that this is the first time that men are using something as a couple to test a contraceptive.
The gel formulation is called as NES/T has progestin based compound called segesterone acetate that is formulated under brand name Nestorone that also contains a dose of testosterone. NICHD has stated that the drug has to be applied to an individual’s back and shoulders and will get absorbed by their skin. Over a period of time the progestin in the gel gets into the bloodstream and blocks natural testosterone production within male testes which reduces sperm production to low or nonexistent levels.
The drug has been formulated as a gel as Nestorone does not get absorbed into the body when it is consumed orally and testosterone does not remain within the body for a full day when taken as a pill. Both these hormones stay longer and are more effective when directly applied and absorbed into the skin. In the US there are no commercial male hormone-based contraceptives so men have to either use condoms or try vasectomy. According to data of Population Council that developed the product, worldwide around 85 million pregnancies that happen every year are unplanned leading to adverse health outcomes for women and children.