User Controlled Implantable Contraception: Baby, You Can Turn Me On

Over the course of this month, there has been quite a bit of press attention given to the Bimek SLV, a device purporting to be the first attempt to achieve user-reversible, surgical, male contraception.

Men have, for a considerable amount of time, been left behind in the field of contraception. Women have both hormonal and non-hormonal methods of which both short and long acting are available. Men, on the other hand, have the dichotomy of condoms or vasectomy, with no halfway option between instantly reversible and surgical permanence. Unsurprisingly, those who wish permanent contraception sometimes wish to have the procedure reversed, which is not guaranteed to be successful.

On the face of it, the Bimek SLV seems to be a good idea. Implanted into the vas deferens, the device contains an occluding valve, which can be changed from an open to a closed position by the user pressing a switch attached to it. However, there were some worrying gaps in the press reports about the device: what were its success rates so far, for example? It transpires that the device is beginning Phase I trials soon, and that the only person in which the device has been implanted is the inventor himself.

Further review of the product information reveals that so far, no animal testing has been performed for the device at all, and this is revealed as a selling point, so that the device can be used by vegan men. Yet despite the lack of objective evidence, the product literature, and website, contain references to the apparent safety of the device, and that the procedure is “low risk”. It’s easier to find information on investing in the project that it is to find information on trial participation.

Bimek himself is not a medical professional, and has brought the device to preliminary trials under his own steam. He is seeking further funding in order to proceed, hence the attempt to drum up media support. In the age of crowd-funding and peer-to-peer lending, traditional methods of research and development are being bypassed. Perhaps this is of value, and perhaps the drive to implantable technology without animal testing will revolutionise healthcare research as we known it, but given that earlier this week a Phase I trial in France resulted in the death of a participant and the hospitalisation of several others, perhaps Bimek would do well to tone down their claims of safety, in the face of scant supporting evidence.

Ultimately, for the time being, what the Bimek SLV has done well to showcase, is that sensationalist reporting without a full grasp of the facts, remains depressingly popular as a way of communicating new science developments to the masses. Here’s hoping that time, and further research, means that it can prove its claims.

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