By the way, did you remember to take your pill today? Ah, birth control, the daily plight of many women. A pill a day keeps the baby away, or so they say. So today's pill was number 272 for the year with only a mere 84 more to go. What if I told you that in the near future you could cut the number of birth control pills by 97 percent? Actually, you could cut them out all together. Amused? A team of Dutch and English researchers find themselves in the secondary stages of developing several possible male contraceptives -- basically a male version of "The Pill." Organon, a Dutch pharmaceutical company, has been developing such a drug for more than 20 years, with some recent success. Ironically, this drug has had a difficult pregnancy. Its female counterpart was received with outstretched arms. Given its high demand, the pill's biggest problem was overcoming biological stumbling blocks. With men, it is the opposite, however. Men's plumbing is much simpler than women's, but finding men in an uproar to control their reproductive future poses a stiff challenge. But in a world where men are expected to take increasing responsibility for their sexual actions, it may be time for such an option. Whether or not the drug is ready for the real world, the problem remains, how does a pharmaceutical company convince men to take the thing? Organon's marketing wizards think they have the solution. Researchers expect the male pill to be effective -- as effective as the female pill -- within 10 years. The male pill, however, would only need to be taken monthly. The advantage is clear: 12 pills a year compared to the 360-something that a woman has to take. But how can the world trust men to take the damned thing? Organon's solution is to mail the male pill, complete with a water packet, to men each month. You simply open your mail, see that a tablet arrived, open your water packet and pop the sucker -- mail-order responsibility? But for many men the likely objection is whether the pill is really safe. In a survey conducted during the clinical trials of the male contraceptive, 90 percent of men said they would take the drug if it did not pose an infertility or erectile dysfunction risk. The latest versions do not affect sperm production or the ability to attain erection. Researchers in the January 6 issue of the journal Nature revealed that unlike other male versions of "the pill" currently on the drawing board, which block the action of the male hormone testosterone on the sperm-producing cells in the testicles, Organon's pill would maintain normal sperm production. However, researchers said, it would block the release of sperm into semen, thereby significantly decreasing the likelihood of pregnancy following sexual intercourse. Men participating in the tests of hormonal contraceptives for up to a year have reported that their sperm count returned to normal levels within six months, and several have had children without problems, according to David Baird, a professor at the Center for Reproductive Biology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. "If a male pill or shot is developed," he writes in the Nature study, "not everyone will want to use it. [But] it will give people a wider choice." I spoke with a participant of the clinical trials of the drug in South Africa, who asked to remain anonymous. He was very enthusiastic about the safety of the pill and said that he had not experienced negative side effects in his sex life. He said that as a part of the study, researchers regularly monitored his sperm production and that it had remained normal. The participant's only gripe was that no women believed that he was on the pill or that it existed. Glowing, he explained however, that the drug company provided him with a letter from a physician proving that he has taken his pill. As reproductive issues continue to pervade the global consciousness, the male pill promises to provide men with their own "right to choose" -- a choice that will enable men to take responsibility so a woman need not exercise that controversial right. The world expects men to be equally responsible for their sexual choices, and it's about time that men began to have equal contraceptives. But will men have to go to the Women's Center to get their pillsComments powered by Disqus
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