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Placebos boost sex drive for some women

September 16, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Researchers found when it comes to helping sexual dysfunction in women, the placebo effect may be more powerful than any pill. This confirms what many doctors believe, both the emotional and physical aspects of low sex drive need to be addressed. While some women have it all figured out, a recent survey reveals 40 percent of American women struggle with a low sex drive. This is why anything that might seem to help quickly becomes all the talk.

The ladies of "The View" dished about the new topical agent Zestra.

But for women it's more than just physical.

Dr. Anthony Cardillo, an ER doctor at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, says the reason why drugs like the female version of Viagra and topical products don't always work is because the problem of sexual dysfunction in women is a complicated health issue.

"There's two large components, there's the physiological response to sexual desire and there the psychological production of that sexual desire. And without those two components it's very difficult to have a healthy sexual encounter," said Dr. Cardillo.

In a new study looking at drug treatments for 200 women with sexual dysfunctions, about a quarter of the participants were given a placebo. Surprisingly after three months, 35 percent of those women reported a significant improvement in their sex lives.

"The big part of our sexual libido is driven by our emotions and our desires and there really isn't a drug to replace that," said Dr. Cardillo.

So was it all just in their minds? Researchers say just talking about problems in the bedroom could be the solution.

"All women in this study did have a chance to speak to a health care professional who listened to their concerns and most importantly took them seriously and really listened to what their concerns were," said Dr. Andrea Bradford, a post-doctoral fellow at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

The finds empathy and support can be just as effective as potions and pills.

"In the quest to find a medical solution or a magic bullet for women's sexual problems we may have overlooked some of the basics," said Dr. Bradford.

In June, an FDA panel did not approve a female version of Viagra for the treatment of low libido. And many experts say topical agents don't work for all women.

Doctors say the take home message from the study is female sexual dysfunction will probably never be as simple as prescribing a "little blue pill."


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