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Hormone Patch May Raise Women's Desire for Sex

More Desire, Sexual Satisfaction Reported by Hysterectomy Patients
WebMD Health News

July 25, 2005 -- A testosterone patch may help improve the sex lives of women who have had hysterectomies, new research shows.

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, only included women who had had their ovaries and uterus removed. That drastically alters a woman's production of sex hormones, which may affect her desire for sex.

A third to half of all women who have their ovaries removed report a drop in sexual desire after the procedure, write Glenn Braunstein, MD, and colleagues.

The testosterone patch is not approved by the FDA for treating women with low sexual desire. An FDA advisory panel rejected Proctor & Gamble's Intrinsa patch in December 2004, stating that the panel hadn't seen enough evidence of the patch's long-term safety.

Common Problem

Many women who have not had those operations also report low sexual desire.

Decreased sexual desire is one of women's top four common sexual problems, write the researchers.

Could a testosterone patch also help those women? It's too early to say; the patch wasn't tested on them.

Sexual desire has many layers; the precise causes of low desire are not known. While testosterone is a male sex hormone, women also make it in small amounts.

Latest Study

Braunstein's study included 447 U.S. women, 318 of whom finished the 24-week trial.

The women were 24-70 years old. All had been in monogamous sexual relationships for at least a year and wanted to improve their sex lives.

Their surgery had sent them into early menopause. The women were also taking the female sex hormone estrogen.

First, the women filled out surveys about their sex lives. The surveys included desire, orgasm, sexual self-image, pleasure, and responsiveness.

Then, the women were randomly given either a testosterone patch or a fake patch (a placebo). The women didn't know which patch they got.

Study's Results

When surveys were repeated, women wearing the testosterone patch reported increased sexual desire and more frequent satisfying sexual experiences compared with those wearing the fake patch.

Women wearing the fake patch also reported improvements, but not as much as with the real testosterone patches.

Several testosterone doses were tested. Benefits were seen with the mid-level dose (300 micrograms) but not the low dose. A higher dose wasn't more beneficial, write the researchers.

The study was funded by Proctor & Gamble Pharmaceuticals, the testosterone patch's maker.

Side Effects

The patches were "well tolerated," write the researchers. All groups had similar proportions of patients reporting acne, hirsutism (unwanted hair), and other hormonal side effects.

Skin reactions to the patches were "mild or moderate," write the researchers. They didn't note major changes in cholesterol, blood fats, or liver function.

However, the study only lasted 24 weeks. Long-term effects were not tracked.

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