Harvard Women's Health Watch

In the journals: Viagra improves sexual function in women taking antidepressants

In the journals

Viagra improves sexual function in women taking antidepressants

Selective and nonselective serotonin reuptake inhibitors — fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), venlafaxine (Effexor), and escitalopram (Lexapro), among others — are a widely prescribed family of antidepressants. One of their most common and frustrating side effects is sexual dysfunction, including loss of sexual desire (reduced libido), trouble becoming aroused, and difficulty reaching orgasm. Such difficulties affect 30% to 70% of people taking these antidepressants, and they're a major reason why patients stop taking their medications in the first few months of treatment.

The erectile dysfunction drug sildenafil (Viagra) has been shown to reduce antidepressant-related sexual problems in men, but no one knew if it would have similar effects in women. Now, a small, randomized controlled trial in women has found that it does. Results of the study — which was funded by the drug's maker, Pfizer — were published in the July 23/30, 2008 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Researchers at the University of New Mexico enrolled 98 healthy women (average age 37) in an eight-week study at several centers across the United States. All of the women were in remission from depression, and all reported sexual problems resulting from treatment with an antidepressant. All said they had trouble reaching orgasm, and most were bothered by reduced libido and difficulties with arousal.

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