Health & Family

Viagra may aid women on antidepressants

Viagra's effect in women has been disappointing, but a new, small study finds those on antidepressants may benefit from taking the little blue pills.

The research, involving 98 premenopausal women, found Viagra helped with orgasm. But the benefits did not extend to other aspects of sex such as desire, researchers report in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Antidepressants can interfere with sex drive and performance even as the drugs help lift crippling depression. Switching drugs or reducing the dose can help. But many people – both men and women – stop taking them because of their sexual side effects.

The complaints are common. More than half the people who take antidepressants develop sexual problems, prior studies have found, especially people taking Prozac, Paxil, Celexa and other drugs that work by increasing the chemical serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is thought to slow down orgasm, perhaps by diminishing the release of another brain chemical, dopamine. Viagra increases blood flow to sex organs.

Pfizer spokeswoman Sally Beatty said the company has no plans to pursue FDA approval for using its drug Viagra as a treatment for female sexual dysfunction. The company ended its internal research on Viagra for women in 2004. While Viagra was found to be safe, the results were inconclusive, Beatty said.

The new Viagra findings are based on an eight-week experiment. The 98 women were using antidepressants successfully but were having sexual problems. Their average age was 37.