Condom-Free Male Birth Control Could Be on the Market by 2017

Sep 10, 2014 at 9:29 AM ET

For men who hate condoms and women who hate the side effects of the pill, there’s very little middle ground. But with Vasalgel, a non-hormonal form of male birth control, could hit the U.S. market as early as 2017, assuming the contraceptive passes muster with the FDA.  

Developed by the Parsemus Foundation, a nonprofit focused on developing low-cost medical approaches that have been neglected by Big Pharma, the product has proven highly effective in tests involving three kinky baboons and a clinical trial involving rabbits (which, as the saying goes… well, you know). Human trials in the United States are set to begin early next year.

The contraceptive was inspired by work on a similar injectable, male birth control called RISUG, which is currently undergoing clinical trials in India. Local men involved in the trial have been successfully using the product for the past 15 years, but Vasalgel’s formulation differs slightly because it is being developed in the U.S. to conform to FDA standards. 

The product works via a single injection of a contraceptive polymer directly into the vas deferens (the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the urethra). The polymer then blocks any sperm from passing through the tubes for an extended period of time. The procedure is far less invasive than a vasectomy, which involves the cutting of the vas deferens, and it’s also much easier to reverse. All it takes is another injection and your little spermatozoon friends can swim free again. Best of all, Vasalgel’s makers promise that it will cost less than a doctor’s visit or an $800 IUD, the non-hormonal birth control option for women.

But there is one issue. With the pharmaceutical industry’s lack of enthusiasm for low-cost solutions, the Parsemus Foundation is being forced to rely on donations and crowdfunding to bring Vasalgel to market. “Since long-term methods aren’t a big money-maker (it’s a lot more profitable to sell pills to men’s partners every month), big pharma isn’t interested,” they write on their site. “So we’re relying on public support.” Currently, the foundation is seeking individual contributions to help them continue with their clinical trials, which you can find out more about here.

Aside from empowering men with a cheap, effective and convenient way to practice somewhat safe sex (with a monogamous partner), Vasalgel could also be a major advancement for women who can’t afford birth control or are unable to take it for medical reasons. Not to mention the long list of adverse effects caused by the pill that, until now, have always been a woman’s burden. In light of the national debate over birth control under the Affordable Care Act, it could also have a huge cultural impact by turning the tables of public scrutiny onto the male body, as The Daily Beast points out.

But will guys really opt for an injection over the old-fashioned condom? For most men, the answer is probably a emphatic yes. As Norman Mailer once said, “The only thing you can depend on with condoms is that they will take 20 to 50 percent off your f***.”