A promising new birth control method for men that's more easily reversible than vasectomy has been developed in India. Called RISUG (Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance or Vasalgel in the U.S) the method is claimed to be 100 percent effective in trials, doesn't contain controversial hormone therapy and it lasts a minimum of 10 years.
The procedure involves injecting a non-toxic polymer (gel) above the scrotum, rather than making an incision as is done in vasectomies. The polymer then acts as a security system, coating the inside walls of the vas deferens (the passage way for sperm above the scrotum) which chemically incapacitates the sperms as they go past, making them unable to fertilize an egg.
"Within an hour, the drugs produce an electrical charge that nullifies the electrical charge of the spermatozoa, preventing it from penetrating the ovum," says Dr. Guha, who developed the contraceptive at IIT Kharagpur in India.
The results are similar to a traditional vasectomy but with added advantages of it being simple, pain free (after the injection part!) and easily reversible. If a patient wishes to restore fertility, after months or years, the polymer can be simply flushed out of the system with another injection.
After testing RISUG on over 250 volunteers, Dr. Guha reported little or no side effects other than slight scrotal swelling in some men immediately after the injection, which dissipates after a few weeks.
Inexpensive to manufacture and simple to administer, RISUG could offer a cost effective solution to unwanted pregnancies in developing countries. In developed nations; it would give women a safe long-term option, free from the many risks associated with long-term birth-control-pill use, whilst also potentially reducing the number of abortions. It would give men a more comfortable and hassle free solution from condoms and an attractive option over having a vasectomy.
"It holds tremendous promise," Ronald Weiss, a leading Canadian vasectomy surgeon and a member of a World Health Organization, told Wired magazine. "If we can prove that RISUG is safe and effective and reversible, there is no reason why anybody would have a vasectomy."
Currently RISUG is undergoing advanced clinical trials in India where some of the patients have successfully used it for over 15 years. In the U.S a small foundation called Parsemus has purchased the rights to begin RISUG (Vasagel) trials with the hopes of developing it for the world market. Parsemus hopes to have it on the U.S market as an alternative to vasectomy as early as 2015, with clinical trials starting next year. There are however concerns that pharmaceutical companies won't be interested in RISUG as it is a cheap one-shot contraceptive that doesn't require monthly prescriptions and thus won't become their next big money earner.
It is important to note that RISUG does not provide protection against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, although a study is currently under way to test its effectiveness as an anti-HIV agent, due to a belief that the styrene maleic acid may reduce pH to a level capable of destroying HIV in semen.