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How close are we to a female Viagra?

20 years since the launch of those little blue pills for men, a medication dubbed Viagra for women has been released onto the US market. But its side effects are scary. So – is there a natural alternative, asks Anna Magee

20 years ago, a little blue pill was first greenlit to give men who had erectile dysfunction a free, if medically derived, pass to the all-night sex sessions of their youth.

But whether having a partner who took Viagra was a good or bad thing for a wife or girlfriend is another – somewhat more complicated – question. What could women do to keep up?

Indeed, since Viagra was first approved for use in March 1998, we have heard murmurings of a ‘female Viagra’ this or a ‘women’s sexual enhancer’ that.

For women, our sexual desire is stimulated much more through our brains, our skin, our eyes and ears – than simply through our genitals

But how close are we really, to a pill that can cure the complicated nature of a woman’s flagging libido? More importantly, who would take it and perhaps of most concern, is it even safe?

Viagra (the men’s version) has a slightly easier job than anything designed for women.

Men get aroused when blood flows to their genitals and hey presto, you have an erection.

For women it’s multi-faceted.  Our sexual desire is stimulated much more through our brains, our skin, our eyes and ears and often, though certainly not always, through the narratives that accompany our lovers and ourselves; the whole story that got us into bed in the first place.

Is it any wonder then, that getting a female Viagra to market has taken a little longer – and been fraught with problems.

The coming of female Viagra

June this year saw the launch of a drug called Addyi in the US.  Addyi (pronounced “add-ee”) is the brand name for flibanserin, a drug that was originally developed as an antidepressant.

Despite the popular comparison of Addyi to Viagra, it’s different from the erectile dysfunction drug, which increases erections (without doing anything for desire).

It is taken daily at bedtime and works on brain chemistry; the drug decreases levels of serotonin to allow higher levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, chemicals that influence motivation and desire.

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Does it work?

Many aren’t terribly convinced.

Indeed, results from a large scale review of the evidence for flibanserin published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) looking at studies on almost 6000 women found that taking it only resulted in between half and one additional sexually satisfying event per month than for women taking a placebo. Researchers concluded ‘evidence for the drug is very low.’

The side effects – and oh, don’t take it with alcohol

Like most drugs, Addyi has sid -effects, which can include dizziness, nausea, intense sleepiness, dry mouth, insomnia, anxiety, constipation, abdominal pain, menstrual spotting, rash, sedation and a spinning sensation or vertigo.

But the JAMA researchers specifically found that taking the drug ‘statistically and significantly increased the risk of dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, and fatigue’.

One study also found additional potentially dangerous side effects—including a drop in blood pressure — when Addyi was mixed with alcohol (the FDA approval in fact came with a warning that the drug should not be taken with alcohol and pharmacists in the US have to screen people for alcohol use before dispensing it).

Given that many of us like a drink before getting huggy between the sheets, this could be a problem, Houston.

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Female Viagra – who needs it anyway?

According to many experts, the idea that there could be anything akin to female Viagra is a questionable one in itself.

‘Many in the field of psychosexual medicine that I work in every day would argue that the term ‘female Viagra’ [often used to describe Addyi] is confusing,’ says Kate Moyle, a leading psycvhosexual therapist based in London and founder of The Thought House Project.

Addyi was marketed as a daily medication to help increase women’s libidos, whereas male Viagra is a drug that assists men in maintaining erections, not increasing their sex drive, Moyle points out.

‘We firstly need to understand that female sexual desire is a combination of body, brain, psychology and emotions and so just taking a medication may help or assist, but is unlikely to create a complete change in how people approach their sex lives and their attitude to sex which requires a more holistic and open approach,’ Moyle asserts.

Almost half of women are not happy with their sex lives and that almost 35 per cent report having low or no libido

What we do know, from recent research conducted by the Healthista sex survey on 1300 women aged 25 to 55, is that almost half of women are not happy with their sex lives and that around 35 per cent report having low or no libido.

According to the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) who license drugs in the UK, fibanserin (the generic name for Addyi) is not licensed for use in the UK and they couldn’t confirm or deny whether the drug is in the process of gaining approval for use in the UK.

Is there a safe, all-natural alternative to so-called female Viagra?

We were curious too. And indeed so were our readers.

During the recent Healthista Sex Survey, a staggering 70 per cent of women said they would take a female libido-enhancing supplement if it were all natural and proven safe and effective.

Lady Prelox is a new supplement that contains only plant-based ingredients – pine bark extract or pycnogenaol, the amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline and rose hip extract and is backed by published scientific research showing that it’s not only safe but also effective.

Its main ingredient is pycnogenol, a botanical pine bark extract proven to expand and support healthy blood vessels and restore the production of nitric oxide to encourage blood flow, essential to better orgasms – believe it or not, 70 per cent of the women we surveyed had trouble having orgasms.

Lady Prelox also contains L-Arginine, an amino acid that is a precursor to the production of nitric oxide. This is a messenger molecule that plays a key role in the regulation of blood circulation and crucial for the regulation of blood flow to the genital area, playing a critical role in sex drive and sexual satisfaction.

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The supplement also contains L-Citrulline, a naturally occurring amino acid that also helps improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure.

In one double-blind, placebo-controlled 2014 study, published in the Journal Of Women’s Health Care on 80 peri-menopausal women (that is, women who are in the decade prior to their menopause), half of those in the study were given four tablets of Lady Prelox daily with the other half given a placebo

Researchers then evaluated the women’s sex drive and orgasm using the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI).  This is an index that was developed for specific use in clinical trials and which takes into account the various components of female function such as sexual arousal, orgasm, satisfaction and pain.

The researchers found that after one month women’s sexual function had improved by 60 per cent on average with Lady Prelox compared to only 40 per cent in the placebo group. After two months, those taking Lady Prelox had improved by 73 per cent compared to only 46 per cent of those on a placebo.

But it does more than aid the mechanics of orgasm in women.

As tiredness and fatigue is so often the cause of our low libidos, Lady Prelox contains rose hip extract, which is a potent antioxidant and source of vitamin C which can help boost psychological wellbeing and reduce fatigue.

Two further studies published in peer reviewed journals have suggested that supplementing with Lady Prelox can improve sexual function.

It was found that after eight weeks of using Lady Prelox, sexual function increased by almost double

One in 100 women aged 37 to 45 was published in 2013 in the journal Minerva Ginecologica and also use the FSI to measure results. It found that after eight weeks sexual function increased by almost double, including improvements in arousal, orgasm and satisfaction and reductions in pain.

Another study, published in 2012 in 40 post-menopausal women also found that Lady Prelox improved desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction and pain in women who took it for eight weeks.

‘This study opens an interesting perspective for women experiencing moderate sexual function impairment and suggests a promising treatment option,’ the researchers said.

‘Substances such as maritime pine bark extract and the amino acids l-arginine and l-citrulline have all demonstrated vasodilatory effects in research,’ said nutritionist Frankie Brogan.

‘That is to say, that through the signalling molecule nitric oxide, they can widen the blood vessels allowing for not only improved blood flow, but improved sensory function as well.’

Any side effects?

In clinical trials no serious side-effects have been reported on Lady Prelox.

How do I take it?

Take two tablets a day or as directed by your doctor, ideally with a meal. According to clinical trials on the product, you should start seeing an improvement in desire, satisfaction, intensity of orgasms and a reduction in any pain in as little as four weeks.

To read a detailed account of our own intrepid writer’s trial of Lady Prelox, visit Healthista next Monday morning.

Lady Prelox costs £34.95 for a pack of 60. Click here to buy.

 

 

 

 

 

Related Healthista Content

Low libido? 8 surprising reasons you might not want sex

Why is my vagina dry during sex?

Is sugar sabotaging your sex life?

5 best supplements for sex drive

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