Testosterone patch to boost women’s sex drive gets thumbs-down

Intrinsa, a new testosterone patch designed to pep up a woman’s flagging sex drive after womb and ovary removal, may not work, suggests the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin(DTB).

Intrinsa was recently licensed in the UK for women who have gone through the menopause as a result of womb and ovary removal and who are subsequently experiencing a drop in sex drive. The condition is referred to as hypoactive sexual desire disorder or HSDD for short. There exists some evidence to suggest that a fall in sex drive after menopause might be linked to low levels of circulating testosterone.

In its analysis, DTB notes that the key trials on testosterone patches have involved highly selective groups of women – excluding, for example, those with various mental or physical conditions that could affect sex drive. And in some trials a diagnosis of HSDD was made on the basis of short, unvalidated questionnaires.

Interestingly, there was also a large placebo response in the studies, with significant numbers of women not treated with the patch reporting improved sex drive, which indicates that low hormone levels might not have been the problem, the DTB report states.

Furthermore, the critique says the improvements were small. And the fact that some of the women were already having sex twice or three times a month before they entered the trials, raises questions about whether they really had a poor sex drive in the first place.

“The published evidence so far is based on highly selected women and only shows small improvements in sexual parameters and large placebo responses,” concludes DTB. “Also the long term safety of the treatment is unknown. Unwanted side effects are common and not always reversible. For all these reasons, we cannot recommend Intrinsa for use in women with sexual dysfunction.”

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Source: British Medical Journal

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