Did Gender Bias Derail a Potential Birth Control Option for Men?
Who’s in charge of preventing pregnancy?
For years, available contraception methods have generally made this a woman’s responsibility.
But researchers report they may be getting closer to changing the calculation, according to findings1 published last week in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. They offered evidence that a new hormonal injection can stop men from producing sperm.
The problem: Three years in, the researchers agreed to terminate the study early, citing potential side effects. That revelation is drawing some criticism.
The approach, which involves an injection of testosterone and progestin every eight weeks, was tested on 320 men in seven countries. Mostly, it worked. But study participants also reported acne, pain, increased sex drive, mood disorders, and depression. Those last four symptoms prompted a safety review panel in 2011 to stop the trial from recruiting new test subjects and continuing injections for those already being followed. The research team was allowed, however, to finish data collection and to analyze the findings.
The decision to cease the study has led to a backlash. Some ethicists and advocates say it represents a double standard, citing evidence2 that female contraception also may be related to depression and other side effects. They argue men are being protected from the same unpleasant consequences that women are forced to accept.