‘Pink Viagra' Gel May Boost Desire

Testosterone is secret to love drug trial

It could be a new way for women to enhance their love lives, and a group of Chicago area women is among the first in the nation to test it.

Libigel is a testosterone based treatment, and if the trials are successful and Biosante Pharmaceuticals gets government approval, it would be the first FDA approved drug to boost desire in women.

But testosterone as a "pink Viagra" is nothing new.

Proctor and Gamble poured millions into a testosterone patch that worked for women in clinical trials.  Questions about long term safety derailed FDA approval of that patch, and in this year of Viagra's tenth birthday, a drug for women has yet to be born.

Biosante is hoping to step into the breach, and teacher Cheryl Newman is one of hundreds of women who've enrolled in the clinical trial.

She and her husband Roy have been married for 25 years and weathered a lot of ups and downs, but when Cheryl's menopause began, they say they were hit with a huge down.

"My interest in sex just went off the cliff, " Cheryl Newman said. "It was disappointing to me, and certainly to my husband."

She didn't think there was anything she could do about it until she got a card in the mail with information about the Libigel trial. Intrigued, Cheryl Newman signed up, and now she's been rubbing a little bit of the gel on her upper arm every morning for the last two and a half months.

It's a five year study, with a lot of money riding on it for the pharmaceutical industry and a lot of hope from menopausal women like Newman.

A University of Chicago survey found that one in three women experiences low sex drive; twice as many women as men with that condition.

And as women live longer than ever before, and society's strictures on talking about sex loosen, gynecologists say more and more frustrated women are asking for help.

"A third of our life expectancy is post menopausal, and this population is suddenly saying openly, 'Help us,'" said Dr. Phyllis Marx, who is helping to lead the clinic trial of Libigel.

Help in the form of any hormone does come with some risks, and sex therapist Laura Berman said there's reason for caution.

She said she's seen how testosterone can vastly improve the quality of life for some women, but there's also research showing that it might increase the risk of other conditions, such as breast cancer.

"We don't fully understand what the long terms risks are, the data just isn't there," Berman said.  "The little data that is there is a little concerning."

But in 2006 alone, doctors wrote more than a million prescriptions for off label testosterone, no matter what the risk.

Cheryl Newman said she understands why.

As part of a clinical trial, she doesn't know if she's getting the drug or a placebo, but she feels sure it's testosterone her body absorbs every morning

That's because for the first time in quite a while, she finds everything is working again.

"My moods are a little bit more smooth. I don't feel as emotionally volatile, and certainly the increase in having sex with my husband was right there," Newman said.

If Libigel ultimately gets government approval, the earliest it would be available is 2011.

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