WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- A form of male birth control known as Vasalgel has proven effective in an early baboon trial, and its developers believe the treatment could be on the market as early as 2017.
Vasalgel is not a hormone-based treatment like female birth control. Nor is it a pill. It's a polymer that's injected directly into the vas deferens, the duct that carries sperm from the testicles to the urethra -- the same tube that is snipped during a vasectomy. The polymer effectively blocks the sperm in its path.
Unlike the pill, which must be taken every day, Vasalgel would be injected once and last for an extended period of time. The contraceptive polymer could be flushed out once a male patient wishes, and sperm would begin flowing once again.
Vasalgel is being developed by the Parsemus Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing low-cost medications and treatments to market. The foundation says that because the early baboon study was a success, the treatment is likely to be tested on humans beginning next year.
As part of the most recent study, three male baboons were injected with Vasalgel and then each were given sexual access to 10 to 15 females. In a recent press release, the foundation reports that, after six months, there have been no pregnancies. Researchers will soon attempt to reverse the treatment so they can confirm that sperm flow will return to normal. The procedure also proved effective in a separate trial using rabbits.
The Parsemus Foundation is relying on donations to bring Vasalgel to market, as the pharmaceutical industry has little interest in developing a relatively cheap, one-time treatment to potentially replace female birth control -- popular and profitable pills that must be taken daily.
But if Vasalgel makes its way to the market, it would be a revolutionary development, potentially making birth control the responsibility of a man. Not only could the treatment free women from taking pills that often have negative side effects, but Vasalgel could also help cut down on the millions of unwanted pregnancies that occur ever year -- pregnancies that often exact emotional, medical and financial tolls.
The CDC reports that nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unwanted.