Viagra May Reduce Sexual Side Effects of Antidepressants in Premenopausal Women

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: May 26, 2010

I remember when Viagra was first released to the market in 1998. It quickly gained great popularity and everyone seemed crazy for the little blue pills. Finally, there was hope for men suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED).

Doctors were writing more than 100,000 prescriptions for it each week at a cost of up to $10 per pill. Although side effects included headaches, flushing, indigestion and visual impairments, it didn’t matter because it worked. Viagra had a success rate in men of 70 to 90 percent (compared to 10 to 30 percent for placebo).

Today, over 40 million men have used the drug and the pharmaceutical maker of the drug (Pfizer) is examining its effectiveness in women. In 2004, Viagra was tested in trials of about 3,000 women as a potential treatment for sexual arousal disorders but results did not have much effect and were inconclusive.

Some women on The Vibrance Network of Sexual Health Forums have tried it without much success. One woman who goes by the screen name, "Hoping," gives some insight from her experiences. “I have tried Viagra several times,” she says, “…I noticed an increase in lubrication and sensation and was able to climax a little easier/sooner. For me I do think the additional circulation helps my response. I don’t plan to continue using it regularly though as I have experienced some side effects”. Like many women who are weary of trying off-label products, Hoping prefers to take the diet and exercise route.

Viagra may work differently for women who are suffering from sexual dysfunction due to taking antidepressants. Over 6 million women in the U.S. suffer from major depression. Antidepressants are the most common treatment although women who take them have long reported decreased sexual interest, genital sensitivity, lack of orgasms, reduced sexual activity and an overall dissatisfaction in sexual relations.

Thirty to seventy percent of men and women treated for major depression with SRI-type antidepressants report sexual side effects. SRIs include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro, Celexa and Anafranil. Many men and women stop taking antidepressants due to the unwanted sexual side effects but could there be a remedy?

The current July issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association released new promising results from a study comparing the effects of Viagra on 98 women suffering from sexual dysfunction due to taking antidepressants. The average age of the women was 37 and all were pre-menopausal. The study followed them for 8 weeks and found 72% of the women who took Viagra reported a reduction in adverse sexual response and overall sexual improvement. Only 27% of those taking a placebo reported improvements. This study is encouraging for premenopausal women, however, we must be aware that the response to Viagra may be very different in menopausal and postmenopausal women so more studies are needed to deal with this subgroup of women as well.

This is the first randomized trial to show encouraging effects from Viagra in women with antidepressant-associated sexual problems. The results are promising for a potential, effective treatment for antidepressant-related sexual side effects in women. It will certainly prompt additional studies in the field but Pfizer says it doesn’t plan to develop the drug for women right now.

Although the “pink Viagra” does not currently exist, other studies are being pursued for sexual dysfunction in women. There are studies in progress to examine the use of testosterone patches, a combination estrogen-testosterone pill and Wellbutrin, an antidepressant that acts differently than the SRI types.

In this day and age, with all the promising pharmaceuticals on the market, it’s getting harder and harder to look past medication to cure our problems. While men see a solution to their sexual problems in Viagra, quite often their partners are going through their own little sexual crisis – menopause. Many women are desperately waiting for their quick solution. However, we shouldn’t forget to look inside ourselves for other answers. For women, sexual problems can be multi-faceted and complicated. Menopause, relationship problems, physical and psychological issues can all contribute to sexual problems. Sometimes a simple pill can’t cure what ails us when other underlying issues are present.

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References

Gellene, D. "Viagra Helpful to Women on Antidepressants, Study Finds." The Los Angeles Times 23 July 2008

Keith, A. "The Economics of Viagra." Health Affairs March/April 2000; v19no.12

Nurnberg HG, Hensley PL, et al. "Sildenafil Treatment of Women With Antidepressant-Associated Sexual Dysfunction: A Randomized Controlled Trial." The Journal of the American Medical Association 23/30 July 2008-v.300no.4. 10pp.

Parker-Pope T. “Viagra and Women.” Well: Tara Parker-Pope on Health 23 July 2008 <http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/23/viagra-and-women/>.

Seppa, N. “Viagra and Women.” Science News: Magazine of the Society for Science & The Public 22 July 2008

Venkataaraman, B. "Nostrums: Viagra May Benefit Some Women." The New York Times 29 July 2008: Health Research

Viagra May Aid Women Taking Antidepressants.” CNN Health 22 July 2008

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