Could a New ‘Viagra Condom’ Encourage Safer Sex?

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The problem with condoms is that they don’t get used as often as they should. But an innovative new product by a British biotech firm may change men’s minds: called CSD500, the condom helps men keep their erection longer.

It’s been dubbed the “Viagra condom,” but that’s not entirely accurate. The new product is lined with a vasodilating gel, which increases blood flow to the penis and helps maintain erection. But unlike the pill, it’s not designed for men who have erectile dysfunction; rather, it’s meant for men who have trouble keeping erections specifically while using a condom.

(More on TIME.com: “5 Little-Known Truths About American Sex Lives”)

CSD500 was developed by Futura Medical and licensed to the Durex brand, which is owned by consumer-products company Reckitt Benckiser. The product is close to regulatory approval in the U.K. and may be on the market within the year, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. If the manufacturer seeks FDA approval to market the condom in the U.S., it will have to provide more clinical trial data.

The CSD500 is certainly an innovative idea, not least because it targets male users. Most advances in birth control — like hormone patches or pills — are geared toward women. And many men would probably agree that the stalwart but lowly condom has been long overdue for an upgrade.

(More on TIME.com: “Sex and Self-Esteem: A Big Boost for Men, Not So Much for Women”)

So how does Futura’s new invention work? The trick was getting the gel to stay put inside the condom, so that it would not affect the condom-wearer’s partner. According to the Journal:

Finding an active ingredient was straightforward — it’s a generic compound for the treatment of angina, a severe chest pain caused by lack of blood flow to the heart. However, “immobilizing” the gel in the condom, so the vasodilator only touches the wearer during sexual intercourse, was the clever part.

“The challenge is having a stable product in a condom — a gel that doesn’t do anything detrimental to the condom,” Futura Chief Executive James Barder said.

“Some products can degrade the latex very quickly,” said Mr. Barder, noting that adding the vasodilator to the lubricant is complicated. “It has to be immobilized in the condom.” Most of the patents protecting CSD500 are associated with this immobilization, Mr. Barder said.

Although CSD500 isn’t meant to compete with Viagra, despite its nickname, a check of online sales of the drug would suggest there’s no shortage of men who use it recreationally, which bodes well for future sales of an erection-encouraging condom.

(More on TIME.com: “The Future of Birth Control”)

But regulators are more interested in what the condom promises to do for rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI). A product that improves firmness and duration will surely encourage condom use, but the CSD500 also combats another common cause of STI transmission: condoms that slip off because of erectile problems.

Reckitt Benckiser plans to investigate the condom’s commercial viability in Europe if it is approved, and then expand to the U.S. market.

Related Links:

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cck710
cck710

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