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Why Women Lose Interest in Sex

Loss of sexual desire is women's biggest sexual problem, and it's not all in their heads.

Putting the Desire Back in Women's Sex Lives continued...

For example, Shrifen is involved in research using a testosterone skin patch to treat low sexual desire in women. Initial studies have shown that the patch significantly improved both sexual desire and satisfaction compared with placebo among postmenopausal women who had their ovaries removed.

She says a phase III clinical trial of the testosterone patch involving several thousand women worldwide is currently wrapping up, and results should be published soon. For the first time, this study looks at the effect of the testosterone patches in naturally menopausal women as well as those who have undergone surgical or early menopause caused by chemotherapy or removal of their ovaries.

No Miracle Love Potion No. 9

When evaluating treatments for sexual problems, experts say it's important to recognize that there is an especially large placebo effect, which is based upon the user's expectations of the treatment. That's why drugs must be tested against a placebo (sugar pill) in order to scientifically measure their effect.

It also helps explain why many supplements claim to be effective in treating sexual problems, such as low sexual desire. Because expectations play such a large role in sexual desire, over-the-counter products may claim that they're effective, but it's likely just a placebo effect.

"It's really important for women to realize that any of the over-the-counter products they may use have not been tested for efficacy and safety," says Shifren.

More Research on Women's Sexual Issues Underway

Phyllis Greenberger, MSW, president of the Society for Women's Health Research says more women report sexual problems than men, but research and treatment for women's sexual problems still lags behind.

"For example, from 1990 to 1999, nearly 5,000 studies were published on male sexual function, but there were only 2,000 women's studies," says Greenberger.

But experts say research into women's sexual function is slowly catching up in the post-Viagra era.

"This is one of first times we've seen really high quality studies for sexual dysfunction in women," Shifren tells WebMD. She says that until recently, the only studies on women's sexual issues were very small, often short-term, and rarely well designed.

"I think it's very exciting, not only that we're hoping to have more products available for women, but that the studies are going on and they are well-designed studies," says Shifren. "It's really a good thing."

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