RISUG: Male Contraceptive Injection is Raising New Hopes

RISUG

“I’ve heard vasectomy makes you infertile”

“Let’s do it without condom, it will feel better”

“Just take the morning-after pill later”

Haven’t we all come across these myths and excuses? Did you wish there was more participation by males in contraception? Even when men take responsibility for contraception, currently there are only two options available in the market that are condoms and vasectomy. Ultimately, the burden of family planning and contraception has been majorly borne by women. 

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In search of better and more options for male contraception, Professor Guha proposed the ‘Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance’ aka RISUG. This proposal changed the dynamics of non-hormonal male contraception. It has been four-decade research and we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

How does RISUG work?

RISUG is in the form of an injection/shot which contains styrene maleic anhydride (SMA), a co-polymer dissolved in dimethyl sulphoxide (DMSO). 

It is injected in each Vas deferens. (Vas deferens is that part of the male reproductive system which carries the sperm from the testes to the penis.) When RISUG comes in contact with sperm, it dissolves the plasma membrane of the sperm. Woohoo! This way the sperm is not fertile to get you pregnant. In other words, a state is achieved where semen is without the sperm. 

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How long is it effective? 

The research shows that the injection can be effective after 2 months on an average of it being injected in the man, up to a period of 13 years. It’s believed that it may last longer but could not be proved due to research constraints. 

Will it be available over the counter? 

It doesn’t seem so it will be available over the counter. The injection will be given by a health care professional for the simple reason that it will be followed by giving local anesthesia. Also, the name itself suggests ‘under guidance’, doesn’t it? 

What are the side effects?

Luckily, no serious side-effects are noticed. Mild scrotal enlargement was noticed which becomes normal after a month without medication. Some slight scrotal pain was also observed but disappeared after a month. Few research participants also developed scrotal nodules (a painless cyst) where the injection was given. Although that also disappeared after a few months. Phew! At least, no worry about irregular periods and mood swings. 

So, is RISUG available now?

Currently, RISUG is under the extended Phase III clinical trials waiting for approval by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), so that mass production can be undertaken. However, the reversibility aspect of RISUG (wherein fertility can be restored by flushing out RISUG from Vas deferens using an injection that contains dimethyl sulfoxide or sodium bicarbonate solution) is experimented only on animals so far. Without the reversibility aspect, RISUG will be nothing more than an improved version of vasectomy. 

Read more at: Vasectomy: Male Birth Control? Will you do it for love?

Apart from scientific and regulatory hindrances, pharmaceutical companies aren’t showing much enthusiasm towards the production of this contraception method due to fear of loss of revenue that they receive from female contraceptives and condoms.

Endnote: 

In India, the family planning aspects of one’s life has always been the responsibility of women. Even if more male contraceptive options will be available in the future, efforts have to be made to change the perspective of men. We need to start having healthy conversations around equal participation of both the partners in their sexual and reproductive health. All in all, myths have to be busted and excuses shouldn’t be tolerated! 

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Sources: 

  1. Wangchuck, Rinchen Norbu, ‘Safe & Reversible: India Close to Making the 1st Injectable Male Contraceptive’, The Better India, December 4, 2019. https://www.thebetterindia.com/204903/india-male-contraceptive-safe-methods-injection-innovation-iit-invention-risug/ 
  2. Khilwani, B., Badar, A., Ansari, A.S. et al. “RISUG® as a male contraceptive: journey from bench to bedside.” Basic Clin. Androl.30, 2 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12610-020-0099-1

About the Author: Vidhi Gada

She is a 4th-year law student from ILS Law College, Pune, who firmly believes the law can be used as a weapon of change in our country and thus began her journey in the field of law. Apart from trying her best to be updated with all the legislations, her interests lie in Human Rights & Intellectual Property Rights. The best way to connect with her is to suggest a song that sets her mood and also, dogs. No! Kidding, she loves all the animals! She really likes dancing, writing and making puns!

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