Future Contraceptive Methods
The high cost in time and money of developing new contraceptive methods in the United States creates a barrier to the creation of new methods. In the early 1990s, a new contraceptive device could take as long as 17 years and up to $70 million to develop. Yet new methods of contraception are being explored. One device in clinical trials is a biodegradable progestin implant which would last from 12 to 18 months. The device is similar to Norplant but dissolves on its own. A device being explored by a Dutch pharmaceutical company is a ring that rests against the uterus releasing low dosages of estrogen and progesterone. The ring would remain in place for an extended period. In May, 1998, a new oral contraceptive for women—the first to use a shortened "hormone-free interval" and lower daily doses of estrogen—was approved by the FDA.
Other research focuses on male contraceptive methods. In 1996, the World Health Organization hailed a contraceptive injection of testosterone that drastically reduces the sperm count and which is 99% effective. This contraceptive will not be available for five to 10 years. Two other studies in male birth control are ongoing—one focuses on preventing sperm from breaking the egg's gel-like protective coating; the other on blocking protein receptors on the sperm so it cannot "dock" with the egg.
Western controversy over contraception continues. There is still disagreement concerning how widely contraception should be made available and how much public money should be spent on birth control. The conclusion of a report from the Institute of Medicine released in May 1996 entitled Contraceptive Research and Development: Looking to the Future, reads, "despite the undeniable richness of the science that could be marshalled to give the women and men of the world a broader, safer, more effective array of options for implementing decisions about contraception, childbearing, and prevention of sexually transmitted disease, dilemmas remain. These dilemmas have to do with laws and regulations, politics and ideology, economics and individual behavior, all interacting in a very complex synergy that could lead to the conclusion that nothing can be done to resolve the dilemmas because everything needs to be done."
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