The 12-week double-blind study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, followed 50 women who were diagnosed with female sexual arousal disorder and randomly given a placebo as part of a pharmaceutical trial sponsored by Eli Lilly/ICOS (the company agreed to release the results of those who took the placebo).
But researchers also discovered that the proportion of sexual activities that the women considered satisfying went from 23% at the beginning of the study to 50.7% during the last four weeks.
They determined that more than 50% of participants showed improvement that wouldn't likely be chalked up to statistical error, and about 33% showed clinically significant change.
The best forecaster of improvement was having more satisfying sexual encounters during the study.
"It's important to note that, even though these women received placebo, they all had an opportunity to talk to a health provider about their difficulties and were asked to closely monitor their sexual behavior and feelings over a 12-week period," said study coauthor Andrea Bradford in a news release. "Just taking part in this study probably started some meaningful conversations. Our study shows that even a limited intervention can have a positive effect in many women with sexual dysfunction." Bradford, a psychologist at Baylor College of Medicinein Houston, wrote the study with Cindy Meston, in the department of psychology of the University of Texas at Austin.