More MS news articles for April 2001

Drug May Bring Back Zing For Women With Low Sex Drive

By Erin R. King

April 19 (CBS HealthWatch)-- A drug used both to treat depression and help people quit smoking may also help women with unexplained low sex drive put some zing back into their lives, according to a new study.

The study looked at women who had experienced a loss of sex drive that was not due to a medical or relationship problem. After eight weeks of treatment with sustained release bupropion hydrochloride, 29% reported an increase in desire for and interest in sex.

"It's interesting because there may be something that will enhance female sexual desire for people who have lost sexual desire," says study co-investigator Kathleen B. Segraves, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University and MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.

Since this study was only conducted for a few weeks, these results are a prelude to a longer study to determine if the trends spotted will continue, Segraves explains.

The short length of the study may also account for what Segraves says are seemingly "not phenomenal" results, such as an increase in sexual desire from once a month before treatment, to twice a month during treatment. But, she adds, while those numbers don't sound revolutionary, for some women, "even that kind of an improvement may improve the quality of the relationship."

Sustained release bupropion hydrochloride is currently marketed by GlaxoSmithKline as Wellbutrin SR, a drug to treat depression, and Zyban, a smoking cessation aid. The study was also funded by the company, which was until recently known as Glaxo Wellcome.

These connections between the study and the company which manufactures the drug--as well as the fact that five of the study's co-authors are cited as employees of the company--seem to be part of a trend, notes Leonore Tiefer, PhD, clinical professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine.

Since drug companies have a lot of money, they can afford to spend lots of it on studies to show that their drugs work, Tiefer says. "It's commercialism disguised as science--product marketing disguised as science," she says.

Additionally, she says, there is enormous pressure and competition between companies to be the first to have a "female Viagra," Tiefer says.

Many different kinds of life events--even seemingly insignificant ones such as a holiday or a child's mild illness--can impact a person's desire for sex (more so for women than for men). "Everyone has desire problems at some point," she says, and these sexual ebbs and flows usually do not indicate a "disorder" that requires medication.

Segraves agrees that women tend to put their desire in context of life happenings. "For women, sexual intimacy is contextual," she says. The newly published study, which appears in the May-June issue of the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, involved women who reported a decrease in desire for an average of six years, while the treatment period was only eight weeks long. The group is about to start a longer study, to look at the drug's effects over a longer period of time, Segraves says.

© 2001 by Medscape Inc.