Hampton Roads women to test 'female Viagra'

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It's a subject that few talk about. Low sexual desire in women is a problem that historically has been swept under the rug. That's changing now with a major clinical trial of a pill designed to give women's libido a boost. Though it's easily dubbed "Viagra for women," it doesn't bear much resemblance. For one thing, it has to be taken daily and for another, it works on desire not performance.

The condition known as Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) is the most prevalent of four female sexual disorders, according to Barry Lubin, an internist and medical director of National Clinical Research, a Norfolk center that specializes in women's health studies. The other disorders are arousal disorder, orgasmic disorder and pain. "There are blurry lines, but for a diagnosis of HSDD, loss of desire is primary," he says.

There are currently no approved drugs to treat the disorder in the United States, though in Europe topical testosterone is approved for women who've had hysterectomies. "This will be the first," adds Lubin, who is currently conducting two placebo-controlled double-blind studies on the drug, one for pre- menopausal women and the other for post-menopausal women. (Food and Drug Administration rules prohibit Lubin from naming either the drug or the pharmaceutical company.)

In order to participate in the clinical trials, women have to report a decrease in sexual desire that is not associated with any known factors — personal distress, marital problems, illness, medication use, substance abuse or psychosocial factors.

In short, the only women eligible are those who report diminished sexual desire for no apparent reason.

The subjects must also be concerned about their diminished interest. "What makes it a disorder is the distress," says Lubin. He reports that several studies have been done on the condition, and that probably 90 percent of those affected, particularly pre-menopausal women, have not had gynecological surgery. "They're pretty darn healthy," he says.

Originally studied as an antidepressant, the drug under trial works on dopamine levels and is not a hormonal drug. It's now in Phase 3 trials and has been submitted to the FDA for approval, a process that usually takes about nine months.

Lubin estimates that approximately 10 percent of women — of all ages — suffer from the disorder. "Doctors do a poor job of asking people about their sex lives. It's not part of the review of systems by primary care doctors. They don't go down that road. Women and doctors are inhibited. And there are currently no drugs available."

Though in some cases it's possible to find physiological explanations, that's far from the case with most. "We can come up with theories, with fabrications," says Lubin, who is trying to educate other doctors about the disorder.

For more health information, go to www.dailypress.com/health.

Want to sign up? Studies are ongoing in Norfolk, 216-4100, and Richmond, 804-672-2995; ask for female sexual dysfunction study, or go to www.ncrinc.net

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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