Home » Fall 2008 » Women Benefit from Sildenafil to Offset Antidepressant Side Effects

Women Benefit from Sildenafil to Offset Antidepressant Side Effects

Kinsey Institute Director Dr. Julia Heiman is one of the co-authors of a study released in the July 23/30 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which examines the effectiveness of sildenafil, commonly known as the erectile dysfunction medication Viagra™, in treating women suffering from sexual dysfunction caused by the use of antidepressants.

Treatment-related sexual dysfunction is a major factor in patients discontinuing their antidepressant treatment.

Treatment-related sexual dysfunction is a frequent adverse side-effect associated with common SRI-antidepressants like Prozac™, Paxil™, and Zoloft™, and treament-related sexual side effects are a major factor in patients' decision to discontinue their antidepressant treatment. Up to 70% of patients may discontinue their medication as prescribed within the first few months of treatment because of sexual side effects.

H. George Nurnberg, M.D., of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, N.M., and colleagues compared the efficacy of sildenafil against placebo for treatment of sexual dysfunction (such as orgasm delay or lack of arousal [lubrication]) associated with SRI treatment in 98 women (average age 37) with major depression in remission. The randomized controlled clinical trial was conducted between Sept. 2003 and Jan. 2007 at seven U.S. research centers. Participants were randomly assigned to take sildenafil (n = 49) or placebo (n = 49) at a flexible dose starting at 50 mg., adjustable to 100 mg., approximately one to two hours before anticipated sexual activity, for 8 weeks.

The study showed significant gains in reaching orgasm and orgasm satisfaction for women receiving the sildenafil compared to women receiving a placebo. The women receiving sildenafil showed lesser gains in desire, arousal, and natural lubrication. Finally, the researchers found that 73 percent of women taking a placebo, compared with 28 percent of the women taking sildenafil, reported no improvement with treatment.

Although the study was small in scope, patient selection was carefully designed. KI Director Dr. Julia Heiman called it "important but moderate," marking the need for further study. Study authors have also cautioned in media reports that the findings were specific to this patient group, and cannot be generalized to the larger female population.

The announcement of the study results in late July caused a flurry of media interest, and Dr. Heiman was quoted by several publications, including USA Today, ScienceNews, HealthScienceNews.com, and the LA Times, and was interviewed on National Public Radio. You can read more of the media reaction on our news page.

The published study is available on the JAMA website.

H.G. Nurnberg, MD; P.L. Hensley, MD; J.R. Heiman, PhD; H. A. Croft, MD; C. Debattista, MD; S. Paine, MPH. (2008). Sildenafil Treatment of Women With Antidepressant-Associated Sexual Dysfunction: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA. 300(4):395-404.


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