Fred Wu. Senior lecturer in medicine at the University of Manchester, who is leading a research programme aimed at developing a mass-market male contraceptive
Apart from condoms and vasectomy, there are no reliable ways men can take responsibility for contraception. But the fact that both these methods are widely used shows that men can be trusted to be responsible for family planning. If a male contraceptive pill were available, we are certain that it would fulfil an unmet need.
Here at Manchester, we are researching a hormone preparation similar to the female pill in that it works by suppressing sex hormones. In women, sex hormones are responsible for ovulation; in men they influence the production of sperm.
Men constantly ring in asking "Is it ready, can we use it?" but our pill, which is being tested in clinical studies, is not just one drug, but a mixture of various hormones, so there is a lot more work to do before it is widely available. In fact it is not just a pill that is being tested, but an injection, a pill combined with an injection, a patch and a hormone implant.
Whenever we do a study, we ask the public to take part in clinical trials. Over the past ten years we have studied about 300 people. Their response leaves us in no doubt that there is a great need for this type of contraception. Indeed, men who are part of our trial are reluctant to leave it. Their partners may be having problems with contraception or have been on the female pill a long time and want to have a break. In a recent trial, half the cases were referred to us by a female partner.
In the beginning we ran up against resistance from the drug companies that market female pills. Because of our work they have completely changed their mind and are now keen to market a male pill.
I am certain that many many men would take a contraceptive pill if it were available.