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Revving Up Women's Sex Drive

Will there ever be a 'Viagra' for women?

Viagra

Despite rumors and various advertising claims to the contrary, there isn't a female Viagra out there.

"We know that Viagra doesn't work in women," says Whipple.

"Women are not minimen," Whipple explains. "We are different than men in what we want, what we desire, what feels good to us, and we're also different at the biochemical level."

Female sexuality is, indeed, so much more complex than male sexuality that even after several scientific studies involving about 3,000 women, Viagra-maker Pfizer hasn't been able to come up with conclusive findings. Earlier this year, the company announced it was ending research of Viagra in women.

But this does not mean there isn't hope for some women. Research is ongoing on several other products for female libido.

Testosterone

Two large studies presented at scientific meetings this year show the testosterone patch Intrinsa, made by Procter & Gamble, can increase sexual activity in 50% to 70% of women.

The participants, though, only include a select group of women with HSDD.

"Every study we've done so far on the testosterone patches in the public domain is just involving women who have had their ovaries removed (surgically menopausal), and they're all estrogen-treated before we add the testosterone," says Jan Shifren, MD, director of the Vincent Obstetrics and Gynecology Service Menopause Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who is involved in testosterone studies. "So despite estrogen therapy, they still have decreased sexual desire."

Women who have had their ovaries removed are good candidates for testosterone therapy, since the ovaries are a major source of testosterone as well as estrogen, says Shifren. "In these women, it was like we were restoring levels back to what it would have been had they still had their ovaries."

Shifren and colleagues recently tested testosterone patches on women who underwent menopause naturally and were taking estrogen therapy. The results of that study are expected in the fall. In addition, a trial of testosterone on menopausal women, not on estrogen therapy, is about to begin.

If all goes well, and the FDA gives its approval, the testosterone patch could be available in one to two years.

Some women use testosterone products designed for men, but these products have not been tested in large studies in women, and could have 10 times more hormones than women need, says Mary Lake Polan, MD, PhD, MPH, professor and chair of ob-gyn at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

Too much testosterone in women could have masculinizing effects, such as hoarseness or deepening of the voice, unnatural hair growth or loss, acne or oily skin, decreased breast size, increase in the size of female genitals, and irregular menstrual cycles.

Additionally, other forms of testosterone such as creams and gels do not have conclusive evidence that they work to boost women's libido.

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