Video: Male contraceptive pill
updated 6/23/2005 10:34:44 AM ET 2005-06-23T14:34:44

The pursuit of a birth control pill for men is heating up.

Researchers at the University of Kansas and the University of Kansas Medical Center are developing a male contraceptive with a $7.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, USA Today reported Tuesday.

The researchers plan to test an estimated half-million different compounds to find a hormone-free pill that men could take weekly or monthly. The goal is a nearly 100 percent effective pill without risky side effects, the newspaper reported.

The female birth control pill is 95 percent to 98 percent effective when taken as directed.

Under the new five-year contract from the NIH, Kansas researchers will build on their ongoing studies that have identified a chemical compound that causes temporary infertility in rats, according to the newspaper. The university filed a patent application for the chemical.

Other scientists are searching for a male pill. Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and in Europe are working on a hormone contraceptive that lowers sperm count. The Seattle researchers plan a large, late stage test of the hormone pill later this year.

The Kansas researchers are seeking a pill that doesn't affect hormones, which have been linked to side effects, the newspaper reported.

There is a need for a male contraceptive. It's been forty years since the birth control pill was made available to women, but men's choices have been limited to condoms or sterilization.

Although it will be at least five years before a male pill would be available in the U.S., the hormone contraceptive could reach the European market sooner.

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