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Antidepressant has fewer sexual side effects


May 8, 1996
Web posted at: 11:45 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Gary Tuchman

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Sheila Singleton found relief from years of depression with the drug Prozac, but like many people who take antidepressant medications, she has lost much of her desire for sex. But what if a new drug would help her sex life while keeping away depression?

"Oh gosh, I don't know," said Singleton, laughing. "You might not see me for a couple of weeks."

Two new studies suggest help may be available in the form of a new antidepressant drug called Serzone. The findings, presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, indicate people who use Serzone are less likely to become sexually dysfunctional.

Both studies were paid for by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., which makes Serzone and has sold it in the United States since last year. One compared patients treated with Serzone to those taking Zoloft -- an antidepressant in the same class of drugs as Prozac.

Men and women

Only 13 percent of women using Serzone had difficulty achieving orgasm, versus 43 percent of those taking Zoloft. Of males taking Serzone, just under 19 percent said they had trouble with ejaculation. The number jumped to nearly 67 percent with Zoloft.


Lest anyone be misled, "There is no indication that Serzone has an aphrodisiac quality," said Dr. Alan Feiger of the University of Colorado, "It's just a return to normal sexual function."

Physicians are naturally concerned if their depressed patients suffer from sexual dysfunction, but the problem can be two-sided. Sometimes, patients trying to get their old sex lives back discontinue otherwise helpful drug therapy.

This is one reason the findings are considered important. However, the maker of Zoloft says it feels large conclusions are being made with a study that was too small. Either way, Serzone is not for everybody.


For people unwilling to put up with the absence of a sexual life, "Serzone is a reasonable alternative," said Dr. Norman Sussman of the New York University School of Medicine. "When (patients) make the switch, though, there are a number of considerations (they) need to keep in mind."

For instance, he said, someone who's responding well to one drug many not respond as well to another, even if it's very similar.

Side effects are also a factor, and indeed, those thoughts have convinced Sheila Singleton to stick with her Prozac for now. "As long as my medication works, and I am making an educated decision as a patient," she said, "I can't afford for my own mental health to change."

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