At a glance: US vasectomy trial makes UK headlines

Cue a lot of ‘unkindest cut' references?
That's why this was so newsworthy: there's no cutting involved. A Canadian firm is doing trials in the US to insert what it calls the Intra Vas Device (IVD), a silicone implant that blocks the path of sperm.

As opposed to...
Slicing the tube (vas deferens) through which sperm swim. The new approach seems popular, with more volunteers than expected making themselves available for trials.

And it is backed by an international media relations campaign?
No. Vancouver-based Shepherd Medical Company, which is developing IVD, is doing no PR at all.

So how did an American trial become UK news?
Last week a press release from the Male Contraception Information Project (MCIP), a not-for-profit group in San Francisco, was put onto the EurekAlert science alert service. It explained that trials of IVD, originally due to take place in one US city, will now be held in three more.

Is MCIP using an agency?
No, in-house director Elaine Lissner writes its releases. This one was picked up on EurekAlert by Michelle Roberts, health reporter at BBC Online. She wrote a piece on it - which was in turn picked up the next day by print media including the Daily Mirror, The Times and London's Evening Standard.

So all this coverage was from a single press release?
Apparently so. Lissner puts the UK interest down to the fact that an estimated 18 per cent of men in this country who are in a long-term relationship have had a vasectomy.

What's the benefit of the IVD?
The hope is that men will find the ‘plug' more appealing. It should also prove easier to reverse, since it will involve pulling out the implant rather than retying the vas deferens.

Ouch. And that bit has been proved?
Er, yes - at least on monkeys. But it has yet to be established if IVD is reversible for men who have worn it for long.

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