The contraceptive called RISUG — reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance — is currently pending approval in India. The product is injected near the testicles and lasts up to 13 years.
It’s been a long time coming, but approval for the world’s first injectable male birth control is around the corner. According to Live Science, researchers in India just announced that the clinical trials for RISUG (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance) have been completed.
“The product is ready, with only regulatory approvals pending,” said Dr. R.S. Sharma, a senior scientist at the Indian Council of Medical Research, which conducted the trials.
The rigorous process required more than 300 men, and ended with a promising 97 percent success rate at preventing pregnancy. While many women are celebrating the fact that sexual responsibility will soon be shared a bit more equally with men — there’s a hurdle.
RISUG requires injecting a polymer into the vas deferens, aka the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles. The injection of gel essentially blocks the sperm from leaving the testes through these tubes, with another shot easily reversing the process, if desired. The drug purportedly lasts for up to 13 years, researchers said.
While this genital injection is given with local anesthesia, not everyone is elated about the scientific progress. According to VICE, pumping a new product into one’s testicles is simply not an enticing prospect for some. A poll of several Indian men provides some insight into the issue.
“When I think about this whole concept of contraception that you have to inject in your balls, it’s too graphic,” said Abhay, a 33-year-old brand manager. “Our balls are like family jewels, so if I have to resort to using any kind of contraceptive, I’d rather go for a pill.”
As it stands, the drug has been submitted to the Drug Controller General of India, which will determine whether or not RISUG gets final commercial approval. Indian officials estimate this process will take six to seven months.
Meanwhile, the United States is trying to develop its own variety of an injectable gel. Vasalgel, however, is quite far off from being considered a competitor here.
American researchers published a study in 2017 that showed it could prevent pregnancies in monkeys — with no human testing under its belt.
Although vasectomies are fairly popular among men trying to actively prevent pregnancies, the initial response to RISUG isn’t as warm. This is despite the fact that a vasectomy requires cauterizing, cutting, or tying the vas deferens — while RISUG would simply place a gel inside.
According to the Mayo Clinic, reversing a vasectomy is also far more complicated than changing one’s mind after a RISUG injection.
The Indian experts involved in this new alternative method plan to provide more informative data on its reversibility. Some of the Indian men interviewed by VICE, however, seem to be put off by the mere idea of an injection, rather than the efficacy of a reversal.
“I don’t know how old the technology is, and all the details are still relatively unknown, so I would prefer conventional condoms,” said Neelaksh, a 22-year-old stand-up comedian. “I’ve watched too many Marvel movies to just inject stuff or consume chemicals I don’t know much about.”
Not everyone is as averse, though, with some men considering it a duty to level the playing field in terms of gender roles.
“I’d be open to trying the contraceptive because the onus is always put on women, who anyway are the ones who have to deal with the downside of an unwanted pregnancy or go through an abortion,” said Shreyas, a 24-year-old writer. “They are already burdened enough, so this is at least one place where men can pick up some of the slack.”
However, Shreyas excluded himself from this pack of men who should pick up the slack — before suggesting an entirely different use for the drug.
“But honestly, I personally wouldn’t use the injection because I’d rather not have sex at all then,” he said. “I would rather rub the gel, because it sounds more convenient, and can also double up as a lubricant.”