Australian researchers are developing a hormone-free male contraceptive pill that wouldn't impact libido or fertility, and believe it could be available in the next five to 10 years.
The hormone-free pill, being developed by researchers at Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, would work by using chemicals that switch off two signalling proteins in the brain that causes sperm to be released.
Importantly, it would bypass the side-effects that have up until now hindered development of a male contraceptive pill, the researchers say.
Such side-effects include long-term irreversible effects on fertility, birth defects in future offspring and libido and are often caused from interfering with male hormones.
Previous research in mice showed male infertility was achieved when two two proteins that trigger the transport of sperm - a1A-adrenoceptor and P2X1-purinoceptor - were deleted.
Thanks to new funding from the Male Contraceptive Initiative, the Melbourne scientists have moved into the next phase of developing a drug that would block these two proteins in a single pill.
Lead researcher Dr Sab Ventura said if the next stage of drug development is successful, trials could soon commence.
This would mean the first hormone-free and reversible male pill could be on the market within 10 years, he said.
"We are moving closer to developing a convenient, safe and effective, non-hormonal oral male contraceptive that can be readily reversed," said Dr Ventura.
"We aim to do this by developing a combination of two drugs that simultaneously block sperm transport rather than disrupt sperm development or maturation."