Male Birth Control With a Flip of A Switch

The future of contraception may allow men to control their fertility with just a flip of an on-off switch! This switch, called the Bimek SLV, was developed by German researchers. This might just be the most innovative uses of technology when it comes to birth control for men.

How exactly does it work?

It’s a small device about the size of a gummy bear that attaches to each of the two spermatic ducts and functions to regulate the release of sperm cells. In its closed state, the device obstructs the release of sperm during ejaculation. It diverts only the flow of the sperm cells, not the ejaculatory fluid. So men can expect to ejaculate normally. Sperm actually makes up only about 5% of the ejaculatory fluid. The rest is made of other substances such as proteins, enzymes, and water.

bimek_slv_foto.jpg

Conversely, the valve can be easily switched open and allow the release of sperm, immediately restoring fertility. The sperm cells that are blocked are ejected out of the spermatic duct through several outlets on the device. Outside of the ducts, special cells known as phagocytes break down sperm. The Bimek SLV is proposed as a life-long, hormone-free method for men to control their fertility.

What would the experience of getting this entail?

First off, a medical examination would be required to make sure that he is a good candidate for the device. An incision is made on the testicles and the devices inserted. The procedure to implant the switch is similar to undergoing a vasectomy. Therefore, the risk of complications or adverse effects after insertion is very low. The procedure itself takes only 30 minutes and is done under local anesthesia. And although it only takes only 1 day to recover, it does take 3 to 6 months before the device becomes completely functional and is able to divert sperm from the ejaculatory fluid.

How much does it cost?

Estimated costs for the surgery and the two Bimek SLV valves is about €5000 Euros or about $5,400 US dollars. Pricey, indeed!

It may be years before this device even lands in the US marketplace because it still needs to undergo clinical trials to make sure it’s safe and effective. If everything runs according to schedule, the device is projected to receive European market approval in 2018.

For more information, see the Bimek SLV website.  Or watch this video:


KevinVuPharmDCandidate

About the Author: Kevin Vu is a recent graduate from the University of California San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Birth Control in 2014: The Goodies and The Bullies

Reflecting back on what happened with birth control in the last 12 months, there were many goodies worth celebrating…hooray! Unfortunately, there were some big time birth control bullies too…boo! Here’s a quick reflection on the most notable of each.

Birth Control in 2014 Goodies Bullies Choose ControlGoodies

1. More women using highly effective methods. We saw a big jump in the use of highly effective methods of birth control, also known as long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC). Among women using birth control, only 2% were using LARC in 2002 but that’s up to nearly 12% in 2011-2013. Both teens and adult women alike are now choosing these methods over other options more than ever before. Most women still use the pill, which is very effective if taken correctly and consistently, followed by condoms. LARC comes in at 3rd favorite. We are all on the edge of our seats to see if this leads to fewer unplanned pregnancies and abortions.

2. Generic versions of Plan B One Step approved. The FDA approved several generic versions of Plan B One-Step. This means more options when it comes to emergency contraception. The brand Plan B One-Step product is still on the shelf, so now women can choose between spending $50 on that or go with one of the less expensive generic products ($40 for My Way, Levonorgestrel, Take Action, or Next Choice). The least expensive product (AfterPill) is available online for $25 a dose. This is a great option for anyone who wants to keep a dose at home in case it’s needed later.

3. Birth control being developed for men. Men have been limited to vasectomies and condoms for pretty much ever. That list may grow much longer to include pills, gels, injections, and even implants in the future. Indonesia is studying a natural compound as a birth control pill for men. While no new methods hit the market in 2014, we’ve got lots of great options in the works. In the meantime, an elastic prophylactic (better known as a condom) will have to do for most.

4. Californians can get birth control at the pharmacy without a prescription. California approved a law that expands pharmacists’ scope of practice to include providing some birth control methods directly to patients without a prescription. That means women in California will be able to get the pill, patch, ring, and depot injection at their local pharmacy soon. The protocol is being finalized now and this new service should be available in the next few months. This is a BIG DEAL! California will be the first state with this expanded access, which is the closest to over-the-counter. More to come on this when we get closer to this being a reality.

5. More support for over-the-counter access to the pill. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists just released an expert opinion on access to birth control reinforcing their statement of support for over-the-counter birth control. Many other professional associations and advocacy organizations are behind this expanded access too. Want to know more about over-the-counter birth control? Check out the Free the Pill websiteTwitter, or Facebook page.

6. Improving consumer and healthcare provider knowledge of emergency contraception. Senator Murray along with her consponsors introduced the Emergency Contraception Access and Education Act of 2014. If passed, two things would happen: First, hospitals* would be required to give sexual assault victims medically accurate information about emergency contraception and promptly offer emergency contraception regardless of the victim’s ability to pay for this service. Second, there would be educational programs about emergency contraception directed at both the public and healthcare providers. Ask your senators to support this bill. *This would be required of hospitals receiving federal funds.

There have been lots of efforts to increase awareness about emergency contraception methods and availability. I helped create a guide to access to emergency contraception for pharmacists and other pharmacy staff members. Bedsider.org has awesome resources like this chart comparing methods of emergency contraception.

Bullies

1. Corporations can have religious beliefs. And impose those beliefs to restrict the health care options of their employees. But only when it comes to birth control and abortions. This doesn’t make any sense but the Supreme Court of the United States made it so. Tens of other companies are now following in Hobby Lobby footsteps to fight the birth control benefit of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This GIFs-planation explains how we went from celebrating the birth control benefit — a major goodie — to being bullied by “religious corporations.”

2. Republicans support over-the-counter birth control for the wrong reasons. Their reason: so it’s no longer covered by insurance. But birth control will need to be covered by insurance to be sure there’s access. Since the Affordable Care Act benefit kicked in, we’ve already seen a shift in women using more effective methods that were cost-prohibitive before (see goodie #1). Over-the-counter birth control would make it much more convenient for women (see goodie #5) but insurance coverage means ALL women can benefit. Dr. Dan Grossman, MD, MPH explains the issues in this LA Times Op-Ed.

3. Counterfeit birth control. Untrustworthy retailers began selling emergency contraception on Amazon.com this year. The unbelievably low price was the first red flag. We don’t know whether these products were counterfeit, stolen, or illegitimate for some other reason. But we can’t trust them either. RH Reality Check published a great article warning buyers to beware. The FDA also has posted information on the dangers of buying medications online and warning consumers to be wary. As if there aren’t enough barriers to birth control without adding this to the list.

I’m glad to see there are more goodies in my list than bullies. I’m optimistic about what 2015 will bring and hope you’ll join me by using your voices and votes to promote progress.