Clinical trials to begin for male contraceptive gel

TORRANCE — A group of Torrance-based researchers are developing a hormone gel that would render men temporarily sterile, it was reported today.

Los Angeles Biomedical Research will soon begin clinical trials for a daily gel that would prevent pregnancy by blocking sperm production. Similar to the pill, the gel uses high doses of the body's own hormones to regulate fertility, the Daily Breeze reported.

Researchers will enroll 60 men in the study, some of whom will apply a testosterone-only gel, and another group that will use a gel with testosterone and progestin, a predominately female hormone. They will test the hormone combinations, along with the application method, Dr. Christina Wang, an LA BioMed researcher, told the newspaper.

"Instead of using injections and implants, the gels would be applied every day to a large area of the skin,'' Wang said. "The hormone is slowly released over time vs. the spike of hormones released with a pill.''

The result would be men who could have normal sex, without conception, she said.

Wang gained fame as the doctor who helped former ice skating champion Scott Hamiliton conceive a child after his cancer treatment.

Wang and her husband, Dr. Ronald Swerdloff, LA BioMed's director, told the Daily Breeze that the biggest stumbling block to getting a "pill'' for men on the market is the reluctance by pharmaceutical companies to back various products that have been developed over the years.

The Daily Breeze reported that surveys show men would like more options, but companies don't yet see money-making promise; the process of gaining approval from the Food and Drug Administration is lengthy and expensive.

An international poll conducted in 2000 showed two-thirds of men would use a daily contraceptive if one were available, and nearly all women surveyed said they would trust their partner to use it.

"Men and women are sharing the responsibility in all aspects of life, financial and otherwise,'' Swerdloff told the Daily Breeze. "There is a strong feeling amongst men and women that responsibility also needs to be shared when it comes to contraception.''