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Women, too, may benefit from Viagra
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Viagra may not only be for men. Women who suffer from sexual dysfunction can also benefit from the anti-impotence pill, according to a preliminary study.
Joanne Dorman, who described sex as "more of a job or a task" before taking Viagra for the study, said her attitude had since changed drastically.
"It's fabulous, it's an enjoyable moment in my life," she said.
Dorman was one of 35 women with an average age of 50 in the study who had developed sexual difficulties after undergoing a hysterectomy. Those problems decreased significantly with the use of the drug, authors of the study reported Monday at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association in Atlanta.
After taking Viagra for six weeks, the women reported "increased lubrication, increased sensation, and increased ease and facility for reaching orgasm," said Laura Berman, co-director of Boston University's Women's Sexual Health Clinic.
The study's authors think the drug works best in women whose sexual difficulties stem from physical -- not emotional -- problems. Those problems can be age-related such as menopause or post-surgical complaints after hysterectomies.
Viagra appears to work the same way in women as it does for men.
"What Viagra does is it increases the blood flow to the genital area -- and blood flow is a very important part of female sexual arousal," said Berman, who presented the paper at the conference.
Viagra, which generically goes by the name of Sildenafil, has been a highly popular with men since it came out on the market two years ago. Pfizer, the company that makes the drug, is now doing larger-scale studies on women. Independent scientists conducted this recent study.
But Dr. Ira Goldstein, a leading researcher in sexual dysfunction at Boston University, warned that the study was not scientifically controlled.
"In a European study with Viagra where a placebo was used, if you simply look at the placebo response, the responses were up to 70 percent," he told a telephone news briefing.
"It would be a mistake to conclude that Sildenafil, with this trial, is an effective agent in sexual dysfunction," he said.
Researchers like to compare any drug to a placebo, or dummy pill, to guard against this "placebo effect." It is not understood why, but people can have a physical response to the simple action of taking a pill.
The best trials give half the volunteers a dummy pill, and both the researchers and patients are "blinded," meaning they do not know, until the end of the trial, who got what.
"Before women start rushing to this agent, a truly placebo-controlled, double-blind, multi-institutional study has to be done," Goldstein said.
Some scientists are studying apomorphine, a drug used to treat male impotence and used experimentally to treat Parkinson's Disease. Others are looking at drug-herb combinations to solve problems that until recently hardly anyone even mentioned.
Researchers also suggested that women may unduly worry about sexual dysfunction. "There is a school of thought that the standards by which we measure sexuality are skewed, just as standards of beauty in the media are," Berman said.
That is why some of the researchers told of their attempts to create tools to physically measure sexual function in women. In men, sexual function is easy to measure -- an erection can clearly be seen. In women, it is more difficult to tell.
Other researcher noted that while there is still a stigma about discussing female sexual dysfunction, attitudes are beginning to change and they expect to see more and more research on drugs to treat women's sexual problems.
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