RISUG: birth control for men?


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blisstree-bed.jpg

During the first class of this semester, we were asked what we wanted to learn about this year.  There were many suggestions, including, outer space, aliens, energy and one of the unexpected suggestions; male contraceptives.   It is interesting to me how there are not better male contraceptives, considering the impact it could have on the world.  Sex is happening all the time, and very frequently is not done for the purpose of reproducing.  So my question was similar to the one in class; why aren't there widespread 100% effective male contraceptives?

risug_mechanism.jpgAfter some research, I have found that in the near future there likely will be an inexpensive, one hundred percent effective, reversible procedure that would be relatively easy to administer.  This procedure is called RISUG, an acronym for reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance.   It can be done in about fifteen minutes and without surgery.  The basic procedure is this, a doctor numbs the skin of the scrotal sac to minimize pain.  Then, with a needle he injects a polymer (basically a gel) into the vas deferens and the polymer sticks to the walls of the vas.  As the sperm passes through the vas, the sperm is neutralized by the polymer and becomes unable to fertilize.  Reversal of the procedure simply involves injecting some sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) into the vas, which will dissolve the polymer and in a few days the sperm will be healthy and fertile again.

This LINK is a more detailed explanation of the process, check it out.

The procedure is easy, effective and cheap (one source says that it will cost about 200 rupees in India; about 4 dollars).  So why isn't it in mass circulation?  The answer is simple.  It is because of the scientific process that we talk about frequently in class.  This drug has to be tested, retested and tested again before you will be able to go to your doctor and ask for the shot.  In 1993, the first clinical trials were run on men in India, the trial consisted of only 38 men.   It was largely successful, so another round of testing occurred in 1997 and again in 2001.  The trials, once again, were successful and have led to more testing.  In 2010, the Parsemus Foundation got the rights to develop RISUG and has begun studies on rabbits.  The research is going well and is expected to continue.

This is just one example of the inefficiencies in science.  This procedure has been being tested since 1997 and all of the results thus far have been positive.   It takes a very, very long time for the scientific community to accept that something is a valid possibility.  After that happens, it takes years for the right people to run the right tests to show the correct results.  Finally, after all the testing and regulations, then maybe the procedure will be acceptable and able to be used.  While the scientific peer review process can helps us sometime, other times it can just lengthen the time it takes for a useful product to hit the market.

1 Comment

This post reminded me of a topic we discussed recently in my Intro to Sociology class. We learned about the top used birth control methods in the United States and in the world. We learned that all of the top methods are ones that have an effect on the woman rather than the male. We discussed that this is due to the gender roles in society. Men feel that if they use some type of birth control on themselves that this makes them seem less masculine. Is there a scientific reason to why men feel this way? Is this also maybe a reason why the perfect male contraceptive has not come out yet?

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