Crowdsource, Contraception and No Small Potatoes

Contraception for men has been an area of dashed dreams for many years, so the ongoing trials of potentially reversible vas deferens occlusion by polymer injection represents an interesting development. Reported in the UK press as an “injectable contraceptive for men”, a description that seems grossly inaccurate in some respects as it’s not equivalent to the injectable contraceptives for women which work using high dose progestrogen; although it is injected into the vas itself, Valsagel is currently undergoing testing in animal models with hopes to begin trials in humans if this is deemed to be a success.

Valsagel is not the first polymer injected vas-affecting agent to be developed, and the work was inspired by the ongoing trials of RISUG in India, covered by Wired in 2010 in an extensive article that also details how Valsagel came to be and containing an account of a consenting process that seems less than entirely rigorous. RISUG was passed over by the WHO after phase II trials in 1997, due to production problems, but interest in the project was renewed in India in recent years and Phase III trials continue locally.

Valsagel works slightly differently to RISUG, by occluding the vas deferens using the polymer. Theoretically, the polymer can be subsequently dislodged using another injectable agent; although whether this is true in humans, only time will tell. Interested clinicians can follow the Valsagel trials through the Parsemus Foundation, who are partly funding the trials through crowdsourcing initiatives.

This is not the first crowd-sourced initiative in medial research discussed in the blog, and it also remains to be seen whether this will represent a useful source of funding for medical research in future, by bringing patients and small donors into contact with large-scale projects.

Those following developments in this field may also be interested in the attempt of an American woman, known only as Bailey, who attempted to crowd-fund her termination of pregnancy through the website GoFundMe (which the website subsequently revoked; although she did receive the funds allocated). Bailey was interviewed about her decision in the fashion and design magazine Vice*, where she discusses that her decision to crowd-fund donations was due to being unable to finance the procedure herself, and the use of crowd-funding to help people achieve their goals. She makes reference to the $50,000 raised to produce a single serving of potato salad, something that suggests the world has not yet run out of ways to waste money.

*This magazine contains content, including nudity and profanity, which is probably in violation of your work internet use policy, but you can read the interview here.