An affordable, non-hormonal, and fully reversible male birth control called Vasalgel is on the way. It will undergo clinical trials in the United States as early as 2016 and may hit the market between 2018 to 2020.
The Parsemus Foundation is funding Vasalgel and has high hopes for the product to pass the clinical FDA trials. Vasalgel’s precursor, RISUG (Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance), has undergone over 30 years of clinical and animal trials in India showing 100% effectiveness rate and no serious side effects. RISUG was invented in the 1970s by Sujoy Guha, a professor of biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology. Vasalgel is a more shelf stable version of RISUG designed for clinical trials.
Vasalgel is made of a nontoxic polymer hydrogel that is injected into the vas deferens (the tube that sperm swim through) and blocks or filters out sperm almost instantly. The gel barrier not only prevents sperm from traveling through the vas deferens, but it also contains a chemical charge that damages sperm membranes and acts as a spermicide. It has no effect on orgasms or ejaculation. Seminal fluids will still be released, but without sperm. It sterilizes men for 10 to 15 years and is completely reversible with a follow-up injection of sodium bicarbonate, which dissolves the gel.
Image Source: Thanasis Zovoilis
The biggest obstacles for Vasalgel are receiving funding and getting FDA approval. To be approved for use in the United States by the FDA, researchers must replicate all clinical trials done in India using larger sample sizes and stricter guidelines for trial duration, which is expected to cost an additional five to ten million dollars. Although Vasalgel is promising, pharmaceutical companies have passed on funding the product so far because it works so well that it may actually hurt their profits. Unlike the female birth control pill that women must take every day, Vasalgel is inexpensive and works as a long-acting, one time-procedure. In addition, it could cut into the current profits of female birth controls options.
As an alternative, the Parsemus Foundation aims to develop the male contraceptive as a social venture to ensure low costs and wide availability. They aim to crowdfund and work with other social-minded organizations to raise funding.
If a male contraceptive is approved for use, it will allow men more control over their reproductive health.