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After blue, pink pills for a colourful life

health-and-fitness Updated: Apr 18, 2009 23:03 IST

Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Now here’s an argument that decisively supports keeping things simple. If you are a man with a flagging libido, all you need to do is pop the little blue pill — Viagra, for the ignorant and the colourblind — to bounce back into the action.

Women have no such option and here’s why. Scientists claim sexual dysfunction in women is a multifaceted disorder that includes anatomical, psychological, physiological and social-interpersonal aspects. Simply put, whether women are in the mood for sex depends on how they look, how great they feel, how healthy they are and how much they like their partner. That’s too many hows, more so compared to what men want (usually just a big pair of knockers).

Early clinical trials using derivatives of sildenafil (Viagra), too, found no response in women, prompting scientists working on the pink pill for women to throw up their hands some years ago, saying female sexuality was too complex to be treated with medication alone.

Since then, patches for women that work by releasing the male hormone testosterone through the skin into the bloodstream have been made available, but have not quite caught people’s fancy. For one, they are cumbersome: about the size of an egg, the patch has to to be stuck just below the navel and changed twice a week. Pills are any day simpler.

The good news for women in blue funk is that new studies in animals indicate that male impotence drugs may deserve a second look in women. Three drugs used to treat male impotence also appear to work in females, although a little differently, and could have the potential to treat the 40 per cent of women who report sexual dysfunction.

In one of the first studies of the effect of phosphodiesterase Type 5 inhibitors — sildenafil (Viagra) and vardenafil (Levitra) — on the arteries that supply blood to the penis, vagina and clitoris, Medical College of Georgia researchers showed the drugs relax the artery in male and female rats. The findings were presented in the scientific sessions of the Annual Meeting of the American Physiological Society this week in

New Orleons.

They found one distinction: female rats responded better to sildenafil (Viagra), while males were most sensitive to vardenafil (Levitra).

That apart, they also found that while the arteries from male rats displayed a relatively standard concentration-dependent relaxation – the more drug they got, the more they relaxed — females arteries showed initial relaxation then oscillation between relaxation and contraction with subsequent dosing. Whoever said female sexuality was complex, had it, well, bang on.

Sexual dysfunction in both men and women is usually caused by vascular problems because of diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, which is the reason why these medicines are meant to be had only on prescription. But when it comes to sex, people tend to throw caution to the winds. Take Viagra, for example. Around 60 per cent men who use it are believed to have no erectile problems. They just use it to add an extra zing to their sex life.

Whether it works, I wouldn’t know. I’m a mere woman ruing the complexity of my gender.