“Clean sheets pill”
The Clean Sheets Pill is a fast-acting male contraceptive with an added benefit: it could drastically reduce male-to-partner transmission of HIV. We consider it one of the most important methods to develop because of its potential impact on HIV and other semen-borne sexually transmitted diseases. It would be an excellent complement to long-acting methods such as RISUG® and Vasalgel™ in the “contraceptive supermarket,” giving men a quick-acting way to control their reproduction and protect their partners.
This contraceptive method is called the Clean Sheets Pill because it inhibits the release of any semen, while allowing the sensation of orgasm. It works by relaxing longitudinal muscles in the Wolffian duct system while circular muscles still contract, which squeeze the tubes carrying the sperm and semen – effectively cutting off the flow. The fluids remain where they are and are re-absorbed by the body naturally without concern for retrograde ejaculation into the bladder.
The Clean Sheets Pill was invented by Dr. Nnaemeka Amobi and Dr. Christopher Smith from Kings College London (now at Oxford University) and could be provided in a pill form, taken 2-3 hours prior to intercourse. It would last 16-24 hours. Alternatively, for continuous protection a time-release product could be impregnated into a small rod implanted under the skin.
The project has run up against funding hurdles, though, and progress on refinement of the product has stalled in the past several years. More testing is needed to ensure total inhibition of semen before it can begin the usually long process of FDA research, testing and approval. Specifically, the researchers are looking for $300,000 for a pivotal trial in rams, which were chosen because they have a large amount of semen and so are a good model for this semen-blocking method.
Funding issues may be tied to acceptability. Would men accept the mechanism of action – a semen-free orgasm – even if it feels exactly the same? With the influence of video porn in modern culture, ejaculation is often tied to a man’s sense of masculinity. Many policymakers say men would never go for this and so there’s no point in further research.
Parsemus Foundation, which has sought to spread the word about this research, ran a small study of the attitudes of men in the U.S. The result? Among low- and moderate-income young men in the U.S., about 20% said “No way” as predicted; about 20% said “Yes, please, when can I get it!”, expressing desire for more control over their fertility; and the rest said “It depends” on knowing more about safety, side effects, etc. The number of men who would consider it may not sound like much, but 20% is a higher percentage of men than use condoms! Another sign that people are interested: a TechCITEMENT article came out about the “clean sheets pill” in March 2012 and was viewed by more than half a million people.
Parsemus Foundation thought it was at least worth giving this research a chance to prove its stuff, and provided a small grant to the researchers to keep the lab going while they look for other sources of funding. They’re still looking, but so far with no leads in sight.
Want to know more? To read more background about the Clean Sheets Pill and how it works, see MaleContraceptives.org (written in 2006). And for the team’s newer results, here’s the
Poster.pdf presented at the Future of Contraception Initiative conference in Seattle in October 2011.
Want to encourage policymakers to support development of the Clean Sheets Pill? Sign the petition.