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23 April 2001
Antidepressant Aphrodisiac
by George Atkinson

A study published in the May-June issue of the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found that bupropion hydrochloride sustained-release tablets may be an effective treatment for hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in females, a deficiency or absence of sexual desire and fantasies for sexual activity.

HSDD affects at least 20 percent of women in the United States. Currently, there is no approved drug treatment for HSDD and psychotherapy has proven minimally effective.

Researchers reported that almost one-third of the female subjects responded to the treatment, with increases in the number of episodes of sexual arousal, sexual fantasy, and interest in engaging in sexual activity.

According to lead investigator R.Taylor Segraves, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at MetroHealth Medical Center, response was seen as early as two weeks during the treatment phase. By the end of the eight-week treatment phase, the response rate indicated a more than two-fold increase in frequency of interest in sexual activity (from an average of 0.9 times at the end of the placebo phase to 2.3 times after treatment), almost double the frequency of sexual arousal (from 1.3 to 2.4 times, on average), and more than twice the number of sexual fantasies (from 0.7 times to 1.8 times, on average following treatment). By the end of the treatment phase nearly 40 percent reported being satisfied with their sexual desire, whereas 100 percent were dissatisfied before starting treatment.

"The results of this study are encouraging, especially in light of the need for more attention to this issue," said Segraves. "Low libido is the most common complaint among women experiencing sexual dysfunction. HSDD is a condition that can cause emotional distress and problems in intimate relationships. Hopefully, our knowledge of how to diagnose and treat female sexual dysfunction will expand in the next decade."

The multi-center study included 66 non-depressed women ranging in age from 23 to 65 years who had experienced HSDD for an average of six years. All 66 women received a placebo for four weeks, and 51 then received active treatment for eight weeks. Subjects were evaluated during bi-weekly clinic visits. Eleven dropped out of the study during the placebo phase, four dropped out at the beginning of the treatment phase.

HSDD is characterized by a combination of factors including persistently diminished or absent sexual fantasies or desire for sexual activity, and can affect both men and women; a person diagnosed with HSDD can still function sexually.

Bupropion hydrochloride SR was generally well tolerated and no clinically significant changes in vital signs or weight gain were reported during the study. Five percent of subjects reported that insomnia (18 percent), tremor (6 percent) and rash (6 percent) occurred more frequently during the treatment phase than during the placebo phase. Ten percent discontinued the study due to an adverse event such as rash, hives or urticaria.

Bupropion hydrochloride SR is approved for the treatment of depression and is marketed as Wellbutrin SR by GlaxoSmithKline. Bupropion hydrochloride SR is not associated with sexual side effects which are common to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) antidepressant treatment, and has been shown to reverse or minimize sexual dysfunction when patients either switch to bupropion SR or use it as an add-on to SSRIs. This is likely attributable to its enhancement of certain neurotransmitters - norepinephrine and dopamine - that affect sexual desire.

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