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Male contraception enters a new era

Male contraception enters a new era

Kelly Hall considers herself an old hand at contraception. At 34, this engineer, employee of the city of Seattle (Washington) and mother of three children, thinks she has “tried almost everything”. The pill, of course, or rather pills. “Apart from the inconveniences, I was especially unable to think about it every day. I forgot, and I had to wait for the next cycle. » The hormonal injection, supposed to block ovulation for twelve weeks: “I didn’t have a period for nine months. » She then tried the implant, placed under the skin of the arm, for a period of three years: “I bled for nine weeks. The doctor removed it. » She fell back on the vaginal ring. But he falls. As the first IUD that was installed fell out. “The second one, it perforated my uterus and ended up in the intestine. He had to operate on me urgently. Let’s just say I haven’t had much luck with female contraceptives. »

So, when she and her husband, Jon, an engineer at Blue Origin, the space company founded by Jeff Bezos, discovered the announcement published by the University of Washington in 2019, they immediately reacted. Stephanie Page’s team was looking for volunteers to participate in the international clinical trial of a male contraceptive called NES/T, led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), representing the federal medical research agency. This time, it would be him who would have to spread, once a day, on his shoulders, and for a year, a hormonal gel, composed of a progestin, Nestorone, and a testosterone derivative, capable of suppressing the production of spermatozoa. “I wasn’t worried about forgetting, I already take a daily medication due to thyroid disease. If there were to be some side effects, let’s just say it would be my turn. For a long time, I wanted to do my share of the effort and relieve Kelly. But I wasn’t emotionally ready for the vasectomy. There, it was reversible. And with this test, we moved science forward. »

The results, on 200 volunteers, should be made public in the coming months. But “They will exceed all our hopes”, already announces Diana Blithe, who coordinates this research at the NIH. She who says to herself “of a cautious nature, the kind that often sees the glass half empty”, is already talking about the future phase 3 trial and the marketing that will follow. “For thirty years we have been saying “in ten years” but this time I am quite convinced: in ten years, we should have an effective, reversible and practical contraceptive for men. »

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Mattie B. Jiménez

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