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Beverly Whipple, PhD, RN, FAAN

Professor Emerita
Rutgers University of New Jersey
New Brunswick, NJ

Full Bio
woman with low libido looking out the window

Low Libido

Ask the Expert


Is there something I can take to boost my libido? Lately, I just have no desire to have sex.


If you're talking about something along the lines of Viagra (sildenafil), the little blue pill that set the world on fire when it was introduced nearly seven years ago, the answer is no. For a while, it looked like Viagra might have some benefits for women. But after spending millions of dollars and years in clinical trials to see if the diamond-shaped pill worked for women, Viagra manufacturer Pfizer called it quits. Women are different from men and drugs developed and tested in men should not have their finding extrapolated to women. Products need to be developed for women and tested in women.

That doesn't mean there isn't research going on. In 2000, Newsweek magazine reported in a cover story on women's sexuality that at least a dozen drug manufacturers were "rushing headlong into research and development" to find drugs to treat female sexually "dysfunction," most of them testing drugs on women that were effective in men.

We thought we were close in 2004, when Procter & Gamble brought a testosterone patch designed to restore sexual desire in women who have undergone bilateral oopherectomy [removal of both ovaries] to a committee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval. (Approximately one half of testosterone in women comes from the ovaries.) The committee did not approve the company's request, however, saying the patch, called Intrinsa, needed more long term study. Interestingly, Viagra was approved for men with only six months of study and Intrinsa had had many years of study.

However, male testosterone patches have been prescribed "off label" for women with sexual desire problems for years (the patch is approved to treat certain hormone-related conditions in men), and trials with Procter & Gamble's patch showed it increased satisfying sexual encounters from three to five a month.

Oral supplemental testosterone can have side effects, however, including reduced levels of "good" HDL cholesterol, acne, hair growth and voice deepening. Again, drugs developed for men should not be used with women without rigorous scientific testing in double-blind placebo-controlled studies.

Before you head out to ask your physician/nurse practitioner for a testosterone patch, you need to think about why you're asking this question. A lack of desire, which is what it sounds like you're facing, is more complex than something a pill or patch can fix. It's also a very difficult condition to treat, but it is treatable.

Ask yourself why you think your libido is low. Are you under a lot of stress? Having problems with your relationship? Bored with the status quo? Sometimes problems with desire may be related to certain medications, like antidepressants, or another problem, like pain during intercourse.

If you're close to menopause, or just passed through menopause, your lack of desire could be related to hormonal changes. Some women have good results with hormone therapy, but that's a decision for you and your health care professional to make.

Since there is no approved medical treatment for a lack of desire, I suggest you talk with an AASECT certified sex therapist, one trained in sexual health disorders. At the same time, you should have a full medical checkup to rule out any possible physical problems, like diabetes or depression, which could be contributing to your lack of desire.

The bottom line is that you don't have to suffer with this. The first step is simply telling a qualified professional about your concern.

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