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Sexual Health Center

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Hormone Patch May Raise Women's Desire for Sex

More Desire, Sexual Satisfaction Reported by Hysterectomy Patients

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.

Researchers' Comments

Braunstein's team calls the improvements "modest ... yet statistically significant." The findings "highlight the important role that testosterone may play in women's sexual health," they write.

The researchers call for more studies of the testosterone patch's safety and effectiveness.

A past study on the patch, also sponsored by Proctor & Gamble, also reported improved sexual desire in women.

The 'Goldilocks' Effect

The study "raises many questions about what is the 'just-right' dose of testosterone," writes Robert Vigersky, MD, of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Vigersky didn't work on the study. He wrote an editorial about it for the journal.

He likens the hunt for the best dose of testosterone to the nursery rhyme character Goldilocks, who sought a "just-right" chair, bed, and bowl of porridge.

"Goldilocks has been around for almost 200 years," he writes. "Should she ever develop [low sexual desire], it is still not clear if a 300-microgram testosterone [skin] patch is 'just right' for her. Hopefully, further studies will be available when and if she needs to be treated."

Increasing Sex From 'Seldom' to 'Sometimes'

The testosterone patch most notably improved in two areas: sexual desire and satisfying sexual experiences, writes Vigersky.

"The testosterone treatment only raised the level of sexual function from 'seldom' to 'sometimes,'" he writes. Vigersky also calculates that the women only got two extra satisfying sexual episodes per month (an increase from three events to five events).

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