Prof Susan Davis with the nasal spray.
A WORLD-first Viagra-style drug for women is being developed, with Australians playing a key role.
Monash University researchers are undertaking clinical trials for the revolutionary treatment to boost female sexual arousal, appetite and satisfaction. The product, known as Tefina, contains testosterone and is sprayed in the nose in the hours before any sexual activity. Experts said the treatment could help nearly one in three women around the world who did not get full satisfaction and fundamentally transform relationships.
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Prof Susan Davis, director of the Women's Health Research Program at Monash University, said the treatment would act like "Viagra for women" and was a "world-first breakthrough". "Rather than a long-term, therapy-based approach, this drug can be taken just when a woman anticipates sexual activity," Prof Davis said. "This could be a breakthrough study for women who currently are frustrated by the lack of any treatment options."
Prof Davis said the drug would be most help for patients who say sex "has become a chore", particularly those in their 30s and 40s who have partners still keen to be intimate. But Dr Steve Hambleton, Australian Medical Association federal president, warned such drugs had the danger of "creating unattainable and unnecessary expectations in women". "Sexual function is a very emotive issue in our society and there is high focus on having the perfect sex life," he said. "This drug will benefit some women but in other women it will do little more than raise their expectations".
Clinical trials are taking place in Australia, US and Canada supported by pharmaceutical company Trimel Biopharma, which is developing the drug. When it hits pharmacy shelves, in possibly three to five years, it has the potential to be a multi-billion dollar earner for the company co-founded by successful Canadian businessman Eugene Melnyk. Investors in the company are no doubt aware that about $2 billion worth of Viagra is sold each year in the US alone.
At present, the only treatments for women who are unable to fully enjoy sex are therapy-based, although there are some medical options for women with other sexual desire problems. The treatment, which would be available only by prescription, would be administered as a droplet-sized dose via the nostrils and will be effective from two hours after it is administered for possibly up to eight hours. The developers say there would be no ill-effects if the sexual activity did not take place.
Professor Davis said the drug would be an important development as "a mismatch of sexual needs in a relationship can impact on both partners in terms of intimacy, satisfaction and overall wellbeing". Dr Derrick Thompson, consultant gynaecologist at the Royal Women's Hospital, said the product would be "in demand", as he saw increasing numbers of women concerned about their libido. "Some women are upset about the issue for themselves, but the majority are more concerned about their husbands' feelings," he said.
Researchers are hoping to recruit pre-menopausal women from Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide to take part in the trial. Participants must be aged 18 to 49, be otherwise healthy, and be unable to be sexually satisfied after previously having had no problems. Those interested in participating should call 1800 998 055 (Australia).