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Viagra May Work in Women, Too.

Study Suggests Drug Helps Women With Arousal Problems
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WebMD Health News

Sept. 26, 2002 -- That little pill that has helped millions of men reclaim their sex lives may also work for some women.

Women with arousal problems who took Viagra in a study funded by the drug's manufacturer achieved sexual satisfaction more often than those who took placebo pills. But further research is needed to prove that the impotence pill has a role in the treatment of female sexual dysfunction, experts say.

Viagra works in men with erectile dysfunction by increasing blood flow to the penis. It is not clear whether inadequate blood flow plays a role in some female sexual problems, but researchers say the results of this study suggest that it does. The findings were presented this week at the 10th World Congress of the International Society for Sexual and Impotence Research in Montreal.

Roughly 42% of the women taking Viagra reported increased satisfaction during foreplay and sexual intercourse, compared with 28% of women taking the placebo. Likewise, 57% of the Viagra-treated women reported improved sensation in the genital area during sex, compared with 44% of women taking the placebo. Side effects of treatment with Viagra were considered mild to moderate and included headaches, flushing, runny nose, and nausea.

Viagra seemed to work best in women with sexual arousal problems who had previously satisfying sex lives. It was less effective in those who had both arousal problems and problems with sexual desire.

"Viagra doesn't really increase desire in men, so there is little reason to believe it would do so in women," says sexual dysfunction exert Marian Dunn, PhD. "This study shows that a subgroup of women might benefit from Viagra. A woman with normal hormone levels who is in a good relationship and used to enjoy sex but no longer does might be a good candidate."

Dunn, who is director of the Center for Human Sexuality at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York, tells WebMD that female sexual dysfunction is only now beginning to get the attention it deserves.

"We don't really have much to offer women," she says. "I'm a sex therapist, and I know that many women are helped by therapy, but many others either don't have access or would not be open to it. There are a lot of women out there who are suffering, and many might find this treatment to be effective."

But psychologist Leonore Tiefer says sexual problems tend to be more complex in women than in men and probably will not be as easy to treat with drugs. An outspoken critic of drug industry-sponsored research into female sexual dysfunction, Tiefer warns of what she calls the medicalization of sex problems in women.

"In the study, 44% of the women taking placebos had improved genital [sensation]," she says. "That sounds high, but it is standard for the placebo arm of Viagra studies. Once you take a pill, no matter what it is, you make love in a different way and there may be a benefit. The problem is that you shouldn't take medicine unless you need it, and this drug has side effects."

Viagra is not approved in the U.S. for use in women. A spokesperson for manufacturer Pfizer Inc. tells WebMD that the decision about whether to seek such approval will be made when larger clinical studies are completed. -->

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