'Female Viagra' is flawed, says study

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The makers of a new sex drug for women - branded the "female Viagra" - have been accused of over-hyping the treatment and misleading patients about its effectiveness.

The makers of a new sex drug for women - branded the "female Viagra" - have been accused of over-hyping the treatment and misleading patients about its effectiveness.

The British Medical Journal claims that many sex experts are worried that the developers of the so-called "sex patch", Procter & Gamble, have exaggerated the value and safety of the new treatment.

The controversy comes as the United States Food and Drug Administration considers permitting sales of the drug, Intrinsa, which would trigger a bid for licensing in Britain and the rest of Europe.

Intrinsa works by slowly leaking testosterone into the body, through a patch placed on the stomach, to help stimulate women's natural sex drives.

The makers insist it is intended for women who have had their ovaries removed or are post-menopausal,not as a lifestyle drug for all ages.

However, the BMJ cites the marketing campaign's claims that Intrinsa leads to a "74 per cent increase" in sex. Most women in its trial experienced one extra sexual "episode" a month, at most, after wearing the patch for at least six months. This makes the drug "look much less impressive", the journal said.

Experts warn that testosterone would not necessarily help older women whose sex drive has fallen naturally. Side effects include weight gain, enlargement of genitalia, increased facial hair and higher cholesterol.

Already, internet "pharmacies" are setting up websites to sell the drug worldwide without a prescription or medical checks - increasing the likelihood that it will be sold freely. The BMJ said the media were partly to blame, by portraying the drug as a treatment available to all women with a low sex drive, and by directly comparing it to Viagra.

Procter & Gamble rejected the BMJ's allegations. A spokesman said: "We have strong clinical safety and efficacy data. There are millions of menopausal women who are distressed about their decrease in desire, a significant issue in their lives and relationships. We hope we can help these women by providing a therapeutic option."

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