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Is the ‘male pill’ finally on the horizon?

OHSU, UNC scientists identify promising new option for reversible non-hormonal male contraception
graphic of a woman's hand holding a pink pill on the left side, and a man's hand holding a blue pill on the right
Scientists are looking at a possible new option for reversible non-hormonal male contraception. A new study focuses on a compound called EP055 that binds to sperm proteins in male nonhuman primates, slowing the overall mobility of the sperm. (Getty Images)

Condoms and surgical vasectomy are the only safe forms of birth control currently available for men; however, this may soon change.

A new study, published today in the journal PLOS ONE, has identified a compound called EP055 that binds to sperm proteins in male nonhuman primates, slowing the overall mobility of the sperm.

“Simply put, it turns-off the sperm’s ability to swim, significantly limiting fertilization capabilities,” said lead investigator Michael O’Rand, Ph.D., a retired professor of cell biology and physiology in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, and president of Eppin Pharma Inc. “This makes EP055 an ideal candidate for non-hormonal male contraception.”

Thirty hours following a high-dose intravenous infusion of EP055 in male rhesus macaques, O’Rand and researchers in the Oregon National Primate Research Center at OHSU in Portland, Oregon, found no indication of normal sperm motility. Further, no physical side effects were observed.

Mary Zelinski, Ph.D.
Mary Zelinski, Ph.D.

“At 18 days post-infusion, all macaques showed signs of complete recovery, suggesting that the EP055 compound is indeed reversible,” said study co-investigator Mary Zelinski, Ph.D., research associate professor at the ONPRC at OHSU and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the OHSU School of Medicine.

O’Rand and Zelinski indicate that more work is needed before EP055 becomes available for human use. They and their teams have begun to test a pill form of the compound in rhesus macaques and will eventually conduct a mating trial to prove EP055’s effectiveness against pregnancy. 

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (R41HD084077), the Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health (P51OD011092), the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Eppin Pharma Inc. and, in part, by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


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