On the Nose

August 18, 2009, 7:00 amwomenshealth

Libido enhancers a little spray of sunshine?

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You know the billboards - "Men, do it for longer", "Want longer lasting sex?" - and that TV ad in which the sergeant from A Country Practice arrests a man for premature ejaculation. Annoying, right? Well, Advanced Medical Institute (AMI), the company behind the $1mil-a-month advertising assault spruiking a nasal spray to treat PE and erectile problems, is now turning its attention to the ladies...

THE CLAIM

In July last year, AMI announced its pre-clinical trial on an apomorphine-based nasal inhaler to treat women's low libido. (Apomorphine stimulates dopamine.) It claimed "more than 70 per cent of female patients experienced orgasm after using the new treatment". But the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has no record of the pre-clinical trials. Dr Darren Russell, president of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians' chapter of Sexual Health Medicine, is unaware of research into apomorphine treatment for female low libido. "The most likely effect it would have is to make a woman feel nauseous," he told the Sydney Morning Herald in May.

"Small trials were done by AMI," explains Dr Catherine Berry, a medical consultant for AMI. "Legally it is all OK; doctors are allowed to put formulas together of medications that are TGA-approved."

THE CONTROVERSY

The idea that a spray can "fix" women's low libido gets sex therapists pretty fired up. "Will a nasal spray fix a bad relationship? Will it sort out work stress or sick kids?" says therapist Dr Vivienne Cass, author of The Elusive Orgasm. "There isn't a woman who hasn't, at some point, lost interest in sex. It's normal, but the medical profession insists on making even a month's loss of interest a medical condition," says Dr Cass. In the Australian Study of Health and Relationships, 54.8 per cent of females reported a lack of interest in sex, 28.6 per cent didn't orgasm and 27.3 per cent didn't enjoy sex for at least a month in the previous year. If that's dysfunctional, there are lots of messed-up women around.

"We're not saying low libido isn't a psychological issue, but we don't go into the causes," responds Dr Berry. "We do give support, but we're not giving counselling. If it's appropriate, we'll say, go to a counsellor."

There's doubt any of these "cures" work. In a study by Monash University in Victoria, funded by a US drug company, 814 women were given either a testosterone stomach patch or a placebo. After six months, those on the male-hormone patch enjoyed an extra two satisfying experiences a month, compared with 0.7 among the placebo group. Not an earth-shattering difference. PS: 19 per cent of the women treated with testosterone reported increased hair growth. And when researchers trialled a "female Viagra", they noted increased blood flow to the nether regions of treated women as they watched erotic videos. But the women didn't report any increased interest in sex.

THE CONCLUSION
Spend your coin on a holiday rather than some snake oil. Women who report a lack of interest in sex, Dr Cass reckons, don't often have good work/play balance. "Make an attempt to include play in your life - and that includes sex," she says. "We know that if you give women a placebo, 40 per cent of them will experience an improvement in their sex life. If you focus more on your sexuality and less on your to-do list, you'll feel more turned-on and interested." That's just a start, but at least it won't put hairs on your chest.