Why is the National Institutes of Health Trying to Hold Up Male Contraception?
Professor Sujoy K. Guha, who has spent the past 40 years perfecting an injectable male contraception treatment, says the National Institutes of Health is holding him up.
Guha’s drug is called Risug, for “reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance.” It is administered by a one-time injection into the scrotum. It works by disrupting the sperm with a differential electric charge. Unlike a vasectomy, Risug can easily be reversed with another injection if the user wants to have children.
This advancement affects LGBTQ individuals who are not yet ready to be parents; that’s a majority of the LGBTQ population considering that 20% of LGBTQ men under 50 are currently raising kids.
Risug is simple, elegant and convenient. So why can’t we use it?
Guha’s been working on Risug for decades, but not to develop the drug. The long journey to Risug’s release has been held up by red tape and money.
Many of the questions raised about Risug and the resultant delays have been instigated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US, [Guha] contends. For several years, the agency wanted to promote a drug for men that involved regular ingestion like the female pill, Guha said. The first medical practitioner to administer Risug for clinical trials, Dr. Gulshanjit Singh, told me a similar thing some years ago. The NIH, he said, was batting for a hormone-based, repeat-use drug developed by a US-based firm. He remembered meetings where a section of the ICMR argued strongly in favour of this American drug, and pointed out problems with Risug.
Recent developments seem to support this claim. The drug whose trials were stopped in October 2016 was a hormone-based solution, relying on regular ingestion to control the production of hormones. Regular use implies long-term sales, a steady guarantee of profit. Risug, on the other hand, requires a maximum of two doses—one injection to put the polymer film in place, and another to flush it out of the vas deferens.
If Guha and Singh’s claims are true, that means that the NIH is holding up a massive advancement in male sexual health simply for greed. Make no mistake—a drug like Risug isn’t just a convenience. For people in developing nations that struggle with poverty and overpopulation, a cheap, simple male contraceptive is a life-saver.