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New Drug Boosts Female Sex Response

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May 28, 2002 -- A liquid that heightens sexual sensation when spread on the genitals may help women who have difficulty becoming aroused.

The drug, alprostadil, isn't completely new. It is made from the naturally occurring substance, prostaglandin E, which has been used as a treatment (called MUSE) for erectile dysfunction in men for years. What's new is that women with sexual dysfunction seem to benefit from it, too.

In a study presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association in Orlando, Fla., researchers tested the alprostadil liquid on 78 women with sexual arousal disorder. Women who have the disorder may want to become sexually aroused, but while the mind says, "yes," the genitals say, "no."

Normally, the clitoris, like the penis, becomes engorged with blood during sexual excitement. Women with sexual arousal disorder may not experience this, and they may not produce enough natural genital lubrication. This is just one part of female sexual dysfunction, which may also include pain in the genitals, inability to reach orgasm, and lack of libido.

The women in the study were aged 40-70. They either had gone through menopause naturally, or they'd their ovaries or uterus removed. All of them were taking hormone replacement therapy.

Thirty-nine of the women were given alprostadil and 39 were given a placebo. They applied the liquid to the clitoris and the opening of the vagina. Then they watched erotic videos for 30 minutes, during which time they recorded their responses, such as genital wetness, level of arousal, warmth or tingling in the genitals, and their degree of satisfaction with the results.

Meanwhile, the researchers measured the flow of blood to the genitals.

Study author Marc Gittelman, MD, says the women were allowed to choose from several types of sexually explicit videos without the researchers knowing which type they had chosen. They were not allowed to masturbate while watching the videos.

All of the women had increased blood flow to the genitals after applying the liquid, while few of the women who used the placebo did. The women who used alprostadil said they had a "high" or "very high" level of sexual arousal and satisfaction with their degree of arousal, while the women who used the placebo said their arousal and satisfaction were "low."

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