Revving Up Women's Sex Drive
Will there ever be a 'Viagra' for women?
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.
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
"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
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
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
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