The Cost of Contraceptives
The contraceptive market is growing with no foreseeable end in sight. In fact, a 2015 survey of nine countries measured the total revenue of contraceptives at around $19 billion with a projected growth of 6 percent over the next few years.
When those profits are analysed, there is a clear distinction in contraceptive methods by comfort, cost, and sex. While 52 percent of contraceptive-device revenues (excluding the pill) come from condom use, the rest comes from female contraceptives that are known to be accompanied by side-effects and higher costs. But this paradigm may be about to shift with the introduction of a new male contraceptive medication.
In many developed countries it is women who bear most of the responsibility for using contraceptives and braving their side effects, which can include nausea, weight gain, and mood changes. In 2015, data suggested that 60 percent of women in spousal relationships used oral contraceptives while only 8 percent of male partners in spousal relationships relied on condoms. And while it does seem that social stigmas initially perpetuated this gender role, it actually may be the current economic pressures surrounding female contraceptives that is stagnating efforts to investigate a potential male contraceptive. That was until Sujoy Guha, a 76-year-old biomedical engineer from a startup in India, did it himself.
But Business Isn’t Booming
Over the past 30 years, Guha has developed a method that is fast, safe, and 98 percent effective — paralleling the effective rate of condoms — while requiring just a single shot.
The shot contains a positively-charged polymer gel that can be injected into vessels in the scrotum that carry negatively-charged sperm. The positive charge acts as a buffer that hinders the sperm’s components, rendering the reproductive cells infertile. The method is also reversible, allowing Guha to dub it as Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance (RISUG). A second shot directed at the already-injected polymer would break down the gel and allow the sperm to fulfill its destiny. If that’s not enough, the whole procedure could cost as little as $10 in developing countries.
To Guha’s dismay, however, pharmaceutical companies have been reluctant to invest in his male contraceptive. While he believes the actions are rooted in sexism, pharmaceutical companies might be off-put by the long-term investment required for such an endeavor, which could burn through $100 millions in funds over the course of 10 years. Although Parsemus Foundation, a non-profit in the U.S., has paid Guha to license RISUG in markets outside of India as Vasalgel.
When tested on Rhesus Monkeys for a period of two years , Vasalgel proved to be an effective contraceptive, and it is now in human trials. RISUG, which is at end of phase III of its clinical trials in India, is reportedly 98 percent effective after analyzing data from 282 volunteers. RISUG will enter the Indian market in two years.
This advancement may change the lives of the 225 million women in the developing world who have limited access to contraceptives while breaking new boundaries in global socioeconomic progress.