"Little Blue Pill" helps depressed women

July 22, 2008 8:38:37 AM PDT
Women not only face twice the rate of depression as men, they face twice the rate of sexual side effects from the drugs they need to fight depression.

Dr.Samuel Keith, a psychiatrist who treats many women with depression, says, "The newer forms of antidepressants have had a problem with reaching orgasm. There's a delay in reaching orgasm."

Researches now have found that sildenafil, known to most by its brand name, Viagra, appears to alleviate a variety of medication-related sexual side effects in women.

Dr. George Nurnberg, of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, was one of the study leaders. He says, "We were assessing specifically whether there was an improvement in libido, the arousal phase of sexual function, orgasm and overall satisfaction."

Dr. Nurnberg and his team followed about 150 women over an 8-week period. The women were between 18 and 50 years of age, and had their depression in remission with antidepressants called SRI's, or serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Half of the women were given Viagra to treat sexual side effects, while the other half was given a placebo.

At the end of the study, he says, "There was an overall improvement in sexual function on a global measurement but that the more specific finding was that orgasm delay, which was a symptom of SSRI sexual dysfunction, improved significantly."

Women in the study were told to take sildenafil an hour or two before anticipated sexual activity. Researchers say about seventy percent of the patients who took sildenafil had improved sexual function compared to about thirty percent of the patients who took placebo.

Some patients complained of having headaches while taking sildenafil but no serious adverse effects were reported.

The study is published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Psychiatrist Samuel Keith feels the finding will help women remain on the antidepressant medication they need.

He says, "We don't need to change medications because they're all basically similar and you can stay with the medication that worked but now you have a treatment for the side effect."

Viagra is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating erectile dysfunction, however, this study indicates it may be a big help for some women too.