Viagra Corner: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Medicine

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THE FIRST controlled study of female Viagra use has shown that the anti-impotence drug for men can also boost the sex lives of women.

In a clinical trial, Viagra was shown to overcome many of the sexual problems that can hamper the enjoyment of lovemaking for women.

Scientists are to release details of the trial at an American meeting where research-ers will be told that Viagra can significantly improve female sexual enjoyment.

Jennifer Berman, who carried out the study at the University of Boston, said that although it involved only 17 women, it was large enough to produce an indisputable effect.

The women, who had histories of sexual problems, took Viagra or a placebo forthree months without being told which they were taking.

After three months, the women on Viagra were switched to the placebo, and those taking the placebo were given Viagra. Each was examined and interviewed about her sexual enjoyment.

Dr Berman and colleagues did not know which women were taking Viagra until the end of the trial; a procedure known as a double-blind, placebo- controlled study.

The women had either had a hysterectomy or had entered the menopause, both known to disrupt sexual pleasure by leading to a loss of sensation and lubrication.

Viagra - whose generic name is sildenafil - works in men by boosting the action of nitric oxide, which increases the flow of blood to the penis.

Scientists reasoned that, as many tissues of the female genitals are derived from similar embryonic tissues to those forming the male genitals, Viagra might produce a beneficial effect in women.

Dr Berman said that Viagra produced much the same physical response in women as in men, notably an increase in blood flow, which causes the male erection and female sexual arousal.

An earlier study on 48 women, who had known they were taking Viagra, had also reported a significant improvement in sexual enjoyment, but the latest study confirms this was the genuine result of the drug rather than the placebo effect.

One other survey of women taking Viagra found that the drug failed to produce the desired effect.

Steve Connor

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