The following guest post was written by L.R. Fox, the Chief Executive Officer of NEXT Life Sciences, Inc., a medical device company striving to transform lives through the development of its lead program, Plan A, a safe, effective, and reversible contraceptive solution for men. Fox’s goal for Plan A is to become a game-changer in family planning and men’s first choice in birth control. By giving men a better way to participate in family planning, Fox aims to help set up more people, more couples, and more communities for success. And yes, most people call him Fox.
Every November, we join in celebrating World Vasectomy Day to raise awareness about what is currently the only form of long-acting contraception designed specifically for men: vasectomies. This year, while we continue to change the global stigma around vasectomies, I’d like to challenge us to also look further out and envision a world where men regularly and actively participate in family planning. This world would not only require better access to traditional vasectomies but also access to some of the easily reversible, long-acting male birth control options that are on the horizon.
Historically, male birth control has been a topic rarely touched upon within the United States. Spotlight on America identified that since 2005, only 30 studies from the federal government have covered birth control for men, whereas similar male issues like erectile dysfunction list more than 500 studies available – reflecting a general expectation that women should carry the responsibility of family planning.
Studies consistently show the two most common contraception methods in the U.S. are designed for women: female sterilization and hormonal birth control pills. And while advances in access, like the FDA approval of an over-the-counter female pill, are incredibly important, the question does remain: why do we limit our expectations to only include female contraceptives?
It’s time to disrupt the expectations we have for family planning with a new frontier of contraceptive options.
Studies show that vasectomy trends were already rising among men leading up to 2021, and recent political changes like the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade have only led to more men, and younger men, seeking vasectomy. We know that over 17 million men are also looking into new male methods outside of what is currently available through vasectomy and condoms. As I shared in a recent Congressional briefing, developing contraceptive options that men are willing to integrate into their lives – just as women do with birth control pills or IUDs – is critical. Just like women, men are looking for an option for themselves that is safe, long-acting, non-hormonal, and fully reversible on-demand. Luckily, a few methods that meet those qualifications are on the horizon, and some have even been in development for decades now.
Back in the 1970s, scientific research in India led to the development of a method of male birth control known as RISUG (Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance), which showed great promise in clinical trials and led to the development of a hydrogel that prevented sperm from traveling through the body to prevent pregnancy. Ten years ago, the technology was picked up by the American-based Parsemus Foundation and rigorously tested to show that the solution could be simplified and improved. This optimized technology came to be known as Vasalgel® and is the proprietary hydrogel used in the product I’m happy to share with the world today as Plan A.
The design of Plan A involves a quick visit to a provider who would deliver Vasalgel to the vas deferens, the tubes within the male anatomy that transport sperm. When placed, the hydrogel forms a flexible filter to block sperm while letting other fluids continue to flow through the vas deferens. We’re developing this technology to allow for reliable effectiveness for up to 10 years and an easy reversal at any time through another quick procedure to dissolve the hydrogel.
I see enormous possibilities with technologies like Plan A that apply new solutions to age-old problems. Novel forms of male contraception like this will give men a real opportunity to share the ownership of family planning decisions; and as more and more male options are developed, I envision we will finally move the needle towards easing the expectation of planning placed on women. The ability to choose when and if to have a child has been too limited for far too long – but we’re finally seeing now that the world is ready to take its next leap toward equitable family planning.
Let’s celebrate this year’s World Vasectomy Day by educating ourselves and others on the exciting opportunities being presented by new options on the horizon for male birth control.
Happy World Vasectomy Day!