Treating sexual desire in women

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
November 6, 2008 12:03:48 PM PST
New information about treating sexual desire in women. Specifically women who have gone through menopause. A new drug was tested on 800 women.

We're all familiar with the marketing of Viagra and Cialis of sexual dysfunction problems in men, but there are few drugs to treat sexual dysfunction in women. But drug companies identifying a need are testing new ways to offer women a solution.

"We have about 30 years developing meds for men problems and we're just getting started on doing the research for women," said Dr. Barbara Bartlik, President of Weill Cornell.

Dr. Bartlik, who is a Psychiatstist and sex therapist, just read the new study in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine

The study tested a testosterone patch in postmenopausal women with low sexual desire who were not taking other hormones.

The patch, called Intrinsa, is available only in Europe. Some women got the real drug in two different doses while others got a placebo.

Gynecologist Dr. Laura Corio sometimes treats women for low libido, which she says, can come about for many different reasons.

Mostly she treats it with estrogen hormones, only in some cases does she prescribe testosterone in gel form.

"There is no Viagra for women, so now the question is, does testosterone work? And it's gotten mixed reviews," said Dr. Corio.

In the study, mild side effects included facial hair and acne but more concerning, four cases of breast cancer in women who'd received testosterone developed within the year.

"Women on placebo did not develop cancer, but we can't tell if that was an effect of the testosterone of if it was a random thing," adds Dr. Barttik.

There were 814 women in the study and no one knew if their patch had the real drug or was the placebo. How it worked was measured up to 24 weeks and the researchers followed the women for a year. At the conclusion of this study, those long term effects of testosterone, including the effect on the breast, remain unknown.

The journal says there needs to be great caution in using testosterone until those effects are better understood, and that means further studies.

Several dozen for female sexual problems are now being studied.

Eyewitness News will be following how they develop.

To read more on the study, go to,

STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Dr. Jay Adlersberg

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