The first new male contraceptive in more than a century—an injectable, sperm-zapping gel with the consistency of “melted chocolate”—is on the verge of launching out of a university startup in rural India, with little support from Big Pharma investors, Bloomberg reports.
The procedure, known as reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance (RISUG), has been in development for a while—back in 2011 Wired wrote, “If the research pans out, RISUG would represent the biggest advance in male birth control since a clever Polish entrepreneur dipped a phallic mold into liquid rubber and invented the modern condom.” Now this vision is on the cusp of realization, or could be: RISUG will reach Indian markets within the next two years, according to Bloomberg.
According to R. S. Sharma, head of reproductive biology and maternal health at the Indian Council of Medical Research, the procedure is 98 percent effective (about the same rate as condoms if they’re use every time), and has no major side effects.
Not only is this new male contraceptive method safe and effective, it could easily be far cheaper than the most popular contraception on the market today. Bloomberg reported on Thursday that, “India’s reversible procedure could cost as little as $10 in poor countries, and may provide males with years-long fertility control, overcoming compliance problems and avoiding ongoing costs associated with condoms and the female birth-control pill, which is usually taken daily.”
The Bloomberg report also notes that in spousal relationships women overwhelmingly assume the burden of using birth control, with 60 percent of women using contraceptive pill or another form of contraception, and 8 percent of men using a condom (this information comes from a United Nations study). With enough investments, RISUG could shift the burden of using birth control off 225 million women in developing countries.
Yet, despite an enormous need for safe, affordable birth control techniques worldwide, Bloomberg reports that no U.S. non-profit has begun developing the procedure abroad, and Big Pharma have generally shown little interest in developing a successful, competitive male contraceptive. Herjan Coelingh, a gynecology professor, speculated that race, gender and age of the individuals who helm these companies contributes to their reluctancy to bankroll new male contraceptives. “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,” Coelingh told Bloomberg. “If those companies were run by women, it would be totally different.”