Long-term reversible male contraceptive on its way

Vaselgel is a long-term contraceptive solution which can be reversed.
Vaselgel is a long-term contraceptive solution which can be reversed. Photo: Getty Images

Men could soon have access to an injectable long-term contraceptive which works in a similar way to a vasectomy, but promises to be easily reversed.

Parsemus Foundation, a US based group that works on neglected areas of medical research, says clinical trials of Vasalgel should be carried out next year, with the hope of offering the contraceptive for sale to the general public in three years time.

Vasalgel is an injectable "barrier" which seals the vas deferens - the small tube that carries sperm. The gel acts as a filter by stopping the sperm while allowing other fluids through.

It is a long-term contraceptive solution which, unlike a vasectomy, can be reversed when a man decides he would like to have children. The reversal process would involve another injection which would "flush out" the gel from the vas deferens.

Director of the Parsemus Foundation Elaine Lissner told US Yahoo Health that Vasalgel had proven effective in tests on rabbits and baboons. She believes the new contraceptive could revolutionise men's reproductive rights if plans for it to be available to the public by 2017 are realised.

"That timing is optimistic, but you'll read about bringing something to market within five to 10 years, and that often means it's never going to happen," Ms Lissner said. "This timeline means this may actually happen."

Vasalgel is not the first contraceptive of its kind. A statement on the company's website states developers were inspired by a polymer contraceptive called RISUG, which has been used in India for the past 15 years.

"But right now, only local men near the study sites in India are eligible for the trials, and formal reversibility studies have only been done in animals, not men," the statement reads.

"In early 2010, Parsemus Foundation began developing a polymer contraceptive for the rest of the world outside India.... and 12 months of rabbit studies have shown no sperm from the second semen sample onwards! Sperm flow quickly returned in rabbits that had the polymer flushed out.

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"The goal is to have it on the market as an alternative to vasectomy as soon as possible".

However, despite the promised benefits, not all experts are convinced about the effectiveness of Vasalgel.

Male fertility expert Dr Jamin Brahmbhatt, who conducts vasectomies, told Yahoo Health he was concerned about possible scarring from the injection.

"It's a very small spot in the vas deferens that they're injecting, the lumen, which is literally fractions of a millimetre," he told the website. "The vas itself is just two to four millimetres, and the surgical tools we use to put the tube back together again are finer than your hair. 

"My fear is that scarring from the injection of a gel barrier might prevent a reversal. Since there's no long-term data on this, there's no guarantee about the effectiveness of a reversal."

Parsemus Foundation has received some funding for the trials into Vasalgel but developers say more money will be needed to continue trials.

The company predicts the cost of the Vasalgel would not be more than $800 per person, once it is publicly available.