A Male Birth Control Option Promises to Be Available Within 5 Years
In an exciting development for the blossoming horizon of male birth control, a new product byContraline called Echo-V offers an alternative option to vasectomy and could be on the market in under a year.
Echo-V is pretty similar to another developing male contraceptive called Vasalgel. They're both polymer gel-like devices that are injected into the vas deferens (in the ball sack), where they harden and block sperm from leaving the body. Researchers also don't know how long either of the devices can hold up once inside the body, so they aren't fully marketed as temporary birth control options just yet.
Vasalgel is estimated to be on the market in 2018, after some funding snags pushed back the research process a bit. Kevin Eisenfrats, co-founder and president of Contraline, told Cosmopolitan.com that Echo-V should be on the market within five years, tops. "Our goal is to be at the FDA's doorstep in January or February of 2017," he said. "I'm going to give you the conservative estimate, so you can come back and make sure I held my word: We plan on having Echo-V on the market in five years."
The big difference between Vasalgel and Echo-V is how the two devices are inserted (they're marketed as devices and not drugs because the mechanical action is to physically block sperm, not kill it). The procedure for injecting Echo-V is called vasintomy, and it's newly developed specifically for the gel. As Eisenfrats explained, Contraline researchers have discovered a way for the device to be injected non-surgically. Echo-V is visible on an ultrasound, so physicians could inject the gel into the vas deferens without having to make any sort of incision. The whole thing would take about three minutes and would involve some local anesthetic. As it's being developed, a Vasalgel injection requires a small incision.
"There are a couple of urologists who are testing [the procedure] and they say it's easier than a vasectomy," Eisenfrats said. And not only is this less painful for the man, but Eisenfrats said it's less risky, since the doctor would be able to see pretty immediately that they injected the gel into the exact right location. He's unsure of what the device and procedure will cost once on the market, and said a lot of that will depend on how much coverage insurance companies offer and how much doctors charge for the procedure itself. His early estimate is that Echo-V will be comparable in price to a vasectomy, or around $720 out of pocket.
Eisenfrats explained that Echo-V isn't necessarily being branded as a "temporary" solution at the moment. "Our early adopters will be the type of guys that are done having kids," he said. "I'm not going to go to my 20-year-old friends and say 'get this injection.'" As with many female birth control options (like the IUD and the pill), Echo-V won't protect against STIs. So for people who aren't in a monogamous, sexual relationship, condoms will still be a necessity. Ideally, Echo-V is a less painful, potentially reversible alternative to vasectomy. Eisenfrats sees it as a necessary shift in the way we think about birth control.
"There are plenty of female contraceptives, and they propagate that rule that women should be responsible for contraception," Eisenfrats said. "Men want to help female partners out now, I think times are changing."