Testosterone patches charge up older women's sex

According to research by an international team of scientists testosterone could recharge the sex lives of older women.

New research has found that testosterone patches can significantly increase the sex drive of postmenopausal women not on hormone replacement therapy.

The study, led by Professor Susan Davis from Monash University is the first research which has demonstrated that testosterone alone in the form of a skin patch can significantly improve the sexual well-being of postmenopausal women.

Dr. Davis, a Professor of Women's Health at Monash's Department of Medicine says many women after menopause experience a loss of sexual interest and in many instances they seek medical treatment.

Dr. Davis says a number of studies have shown that treatment with testosterone improves sexual well-being in postmenopausal women using oestrogen therapy, but many women do not want to take oestrogen and she says they have found that treatment with a patch which delivers 300 micrograms (ug) of testosterone each day offers a significant improvement in sexual function in postmenopausal women with low libido who are using no other hormone therapy.

The study involved 814 postmenopausal women from 65 centres in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Sweden and participants were selected at random to receive either a patch delivering 300ug of testosterone daily or a placebo.

At the start of the study the women reported that approximately 50% of all sexual episodes were satisfying but by 24 weeks the group receiving the 300ug testosterone patch reported on average an increase of 2.1 extra satisfying sexual episodes per month compared to an increase of 0.7 in the placebo group - the treatment effects did not differ between naturally and surgically menopausal women and there were few side effects.

Professor Davis says women often worry about the side effects of using testosterone but it is important to note that testosterone is an essential female hormone and premenopausal women normally have much more testosterone circulating in their blood at any given moment than oestrogen.

Professor Davis says more research is being conducted to confirm the safety of testosterone therapy in greater numbers of women over a longer period of time.

At present testosterone therapy is not approved for use in women in Australia.

The study was funded by by Procter and Gamble Pharmaceuticals USA and is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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