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Sex-Driver Education

Wanted: Vermont women to test a rousing new drug


Published April 15, 2009 at 7:07 a.m.


It’s spring, when a girl’s fancy turns toward … knocking boots? The makers of a Viagra-like drug for women hope so. BioSante Pharmaceuticals is currently seeking Chittenden County volunteers for an ongoing study on the effectiveness of Libigel — a testosterone gel that’s been formulated to give females a kick in the underpants. Called the Bloom Study, it has nothing to do with seeds and everything to do with the dirty deed. Or lack thereof.

“The loss of libido is very common among women, especially among postmenopausal women,” says Williston-based gynecologist Anne Viselli, MD, who’s working with BioSante to recruit patients for the Bloom Study. “It’s frustrating — there are three or four products out there for men, but we don’t have a lot for women.”

According to BioSante, some 40 million American women suffer from some type of sexual disorder. The most common one is a ho-hum attitude toward the horizontal boogie, called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). When the fornication fizzles, says Viselli, so do many other crucial aspects of romance.

“Sexuality is a healthy part of a relationship — for intimacy, for bonding, for connectivity,” she says. “When that’s not there, the relationship can struggle, and with that may come further communication issues, further distancing — it’s often the lack of an intimate relationship that puts a chasm in the middle of a couple’s life, and it can be hard to overcome that.”

So, just how much sex is normal? “I try not to say the word ‘normal,’” says Viselli. “It sets people up for failure.”

Instead, she suggests, each couple needs to decide what frequency is normal for them, whether that’s once a week or once a month. “It varies depending on the age, the intimacy needs, what else is going on in life,” adds Viselli. “Statistics can be very distressing — ‘Everyone does it twice a week, what about us?’”

A recent study by the University of Chicago found that married 18-to-29-year-olds have intercourse 109.1 times per year. For 30-to-39-year-olds, it’s 87 times per year; 40-to-49-year-olds, 70.2 times; 50-to-59-year-olds, 52.5 times; and 60-to-69-year-olds, 32.2 times. Married couples aged 70 and above came in with a mean of 17.2 times per year. But who’s counting?

When couples don’t feel it, should they force it? Last year saw the release of two books about spouses who tried to revive their marriages by having sex every single day — 365 Nights and Just Do It. But Viselli says their method isn’t the solution. “That seems ritualistic, automatic,” she says. “It doesn’t create the closeness if you say, ‘We have to do it today; we said we’d do it every day.’”

Instead, she recommends that couples who experience a dry spell — two weeks without sex after doing it almost nightly, for example — start seeking solutions. “It might be marriage counseling; it might involve sex-therapy counseling; it might involve something as a night for marriage maintenance,” instructs Viselli. “Maybe you need a little jump start — maybe watching an erotic film or reading a book together, or using erotic role-playing. There are various products for increasing libido, some more valid than others.”

It’s not just older women whose lust can rust. “Women with small children experience the classic desire disorder,” says Viselli. “It’s a stressful, busy time and a desire killer.”

For the Bloom Study, however, BioSante is focusing on about 500 women who’ve undergone “the change,” either naturally or surgically. “The study is currently looking for women at least 30 years of age to participate,” reads the press release. “Qualified participants must have either gone through menopause or had their ovaries removed.”

Since menopause can be associated with a drop in testosterone — yes, women have that hormone, too, and it affects their sex drive — the Bloom Study is specifically looking at how supplemental testosterone affects HSDD. Once they sign up, women get a pump bottle filled with the testosterone-laden LibiGel ointment, which they rub on their … upper arms. The gel is designed to seep into the bloodstream over the next 24 hours, enabling the testosterone to boost sex drive.

Does it work? Neither Viselli nor the PR representative of the Bloom Study offered up any users to reveal randy anecdotes, pre- or post-LibiGel. Most women, says Viselli, still keep sexual health well under the covers. “They don’t volunteer for a number of reasons,” she says. “One is, they’re concerned that they will make the physician uncomfortable. Women are more aware [than before] about the importance of sexual health but are afraid to bring it up.”

You can’t find LibiGel on local drugstore shelves — yet. With Phase III of the trials under way, the USDA has agreed to use the current study as the basis for possible approval of the LibiGel drug, which could happen in 2011. Women eagerly anticipating that date may want to make sure their tickers are checked out, too. BioSante is testing LibiGel for possible adverse effects on the heart by enrolling up to 3100 women in a “double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter, cardiovascular-events-driven study.”

For now, plenty of women are finding that testosterone cream can turn up the heat between the sheets. In earlier clinical trials, according to BioSante, women’s use of LibiGel increased their frequency of satisfying sexual encounters by 238 percent. And Viselli notes that, in Europe, testosterone medication for HSDD-suffering women has been a success. “It got a very, very positive response,” she says.

If the unending spam for Viagra and its knockoffs is any indication, when LibiGel hits the market, our in-boxes will be the first to find out.