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Updated: Thursday, 21st October 2004


50% of women receiving the patch showed a significant increase in sex drive as opposed to those receiving a placebo.


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  Hypoactive sexual drive disorder (HSDD)  

Loss of sex drive, a condition known as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), in women can be due to many causes.

Some are psychological such as marital problems, power struggles; others are physical such as heart disease, or any other disabling disease. Some medications may also lead to low sex drive (antidepressants). Reduced estrogen to postmenopausal levels can lead to dryness of the vagina making sex painful which has psychological complications.

Another cause may be reduced testosterone levels. It has been argued that increasing testosterone levels even in those without low levels may also serve to increase sex drive. Another hormone currently under study is MSH (melanocyte stimulating hormone). It has been proposed to be a cause for the increased sex drive experienced in women at the time of ovulation. A recent study on female rats has just been published and shows favorable results. However, the drug is still in the preclincal testing phase and it will be a long time before we see it on the market (if it ever makes it).

Intrinsa - sex boosting patch

Although not yet approved by the FDA, a new testosterone patch showed very promising results in a recent study. Indeed, 50% of women receiving the patch showed a significant increase in sex drive as opposed to those receiving a placebo. The study only included women with low sex drive due to surgically induced menopause. They all had a condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). This is a very significant result for a disease which previously had no effective treatment. The study showed there were also significant increases in other measures of sexual function, such as arousal, orgasm, pleasure, responsiveness, and less psychological distress.

Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals, who manufactures the testosterone patch which is to be called Intrinsa if it is approved by the FDA, sponsored the study.

In the study, which was presented this week at the Endocrine Society's 86th Annual Meeting in New Orleans, researchers compared the effects of using a testosterone patch containing 300 micrograms of testosterone against a placebo patch in 533 women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). This form of sexual dysfunction is defined as a lack of sexual desire that causes a woman personal distress. The patches were worn on the skin and changed twice a week during the 24-week study.

A second study, was  presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Philadelphia. The phase III clinical trial looked at the effects of the testosterone patch in 549 menopausal women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD).

Half of women wore a testosterone patch that delivered 300 micrograms of testosterone per day and the other half wore a placebo patch. Both patches were replaced twice weekly and worn for 24 weeks. All of the women were also taking hormone replacement therapy in the form of estrogen pills with or without a progestin.

Women who received the testosterone patch reported four times as many satisfying sexual episodes compared with those who wore the placebo (an average of about two per month compared with 0.5 per month among the placebo users). There were also significant improvements in other measures of female sexual function among testosterone patch users, such as arousal, orgasm, pleasure, responsiveness, and self-image.

It should be noted however, that testosterone therapy in women is associated with several unfavorable side effects, of which the most disturbing is increased body hair. There were some reports of red or irritated skin from the patch.


Buster, J. "Large Phase III Study Confirms That Transdermal Testosterone Patch 300 mg/day Significantly Improves Sexual Function with Minimal Side Effects in Surgically Menopausal Women," presented at The Endocrine Society's 86th Annual Meeting, New Orleans, June 16-19, 2004. News release, Endocrine Society.

Kroll, R. "Testosterone transdermal patch (TTP) significantly improved sexual function in naturally menopausal women in a large phase III study," Presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Oct. 16-20, 2004, Philadelphia.


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