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Research raises hopes for male birth pill


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Research raises hopes for male birth pill

Sarah Boseley, health editor

Friday April 28, 2006

The Guardian

A pill for men that will allow them to share the responsibility for birth control looks a better prospect with research published today. Scientists have known it was possible to suppress the production of sperm with the hormone androgen or a combination of androgen and progestagen. The long-term effects of taking hormones in men were less clear, however.

Writing in the Lancet today, Peter Liu and colleagues from the Harbor-UCLA Medical Centre and Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute in Torrance, California, say: "Hormonal male contraceptive methods could soon become widely available." Large-scale trials of potential male pills are taking place in China and in Europe. So they consider it "timely and important" to assess what the prospects are for a man on the pill of recovering his full fertility.

The researchers pulled together the data from 30 studies of men using experimental hormonal contraception for at least three months published between 1990 and 2005. In the studies, sperm output was monitored every month until it had completely recovered.

Data was available for around 1,500 men. The average time it took for them to regain their full fertility was three to four months.

"Our data provide strong assurance that the previously described efficacy of hormonal male contraceptives is coupled with highly predictable recovery to semen characteristics that are compatible with fertility," says Dr Liu. "These findings thereby increase the promise of new contraceptive drugs allowing men to share more fairly the satisfaction and burden of family planning."

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