Study: Antidepressant Affects Libido

Friday, May 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) — Preliminary results from an industry-funded study found that an antidepressant increased sex drive in some women whose libido was distressingly low.

By the end of eight weeks, 15 of the 51 participants had responded to the drug, with their condition rated as much improved.

The women had not been depressed, but were diagnosed with ``hypoactive sexual desire disorder.'' More common in women than men, it is marked by deficient or absent sexual fantasies and desire for sex, causing the person distress.

There are no exact figures on how common it is, but surveys find at least 20 percent of women complain of a persisting lack of sexual desire.

Dr. R. Taylor Segraves of the Case Western University School of Medicine in Cleveland led the preliminary study and presented results Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. The work was financed by Glaxo Wellcome Inc., which markets the drug as Wellbutrin SR.

Segraves said the results show bupropion should get further study for treating the sexual disorder, which comes from a variety of causes, including early sex abuse, a troubled marriage and hormonal problems.

Doctors use a variety of therapies, including psychotherapy and testosterone injections. But they need more options, said Raymond Rosen, director of the sexual pharmacology research unit at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, N.J.

The new study is ``a significant advance,'' said Rosen, who was not involved in the work.

Bupropion boosts the brain's production of dopamine, a chemical messenger linked to sexual desire, Segraves said.

Study participants, whose average age was 41, started to get the drug after four weeks on a placebo. During that placebo phase, none improved. But the women began responding as early as two weeks after going on the antidepressant.

Women's interest in having sex increased from an average of about one episode per two weeks at the end of the placebo phase to 2.3 episodes per two weeks by the end of their eight weeks on bupropion. The average number of episodes of sexual arousal per two weeks rose from 1.3 to 2.4, and of sexual fantasy from 0.7 to 1.8.

Five women stopped taking the drug because they developed a rash or hives.