The problems for women start when their libido shows signs of flagging. However, a leading doctor claims that their lives could easily be transformed by a simple testosterone prescription. A single daily pill giving a low dose of testosterone costing less than £10 per month can increase desire in menopausal women but many family doctors fail to offer it.
National guidance recommends that the hormone, which is routinely prescribed to men whose sex drives have fallen, can be given to women ‘off-label’, but complex dosage adjustments mean that the majority of GPs are unable to provide it.
Nick Panay of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, an expert on the menopause, said that licensed testosterone drugs should be made available to women immediately.
‘This is not just about a lack of sex drive,’ he told the Times. ‘These women have lost their joie de vivre, zest for life, and testosterone can help them get it back.
‘Low libido is a serious relationship damaging problem that affects around 15% of menopausal women – that’s hundreds of thousands of women.
‘Despite clinical evidence that testosterone can be life-changing for menopausal women there is no product licensed for female use.
‘Doctors must adjust dosage levels of male products which many GPs are not qualified to do,’ Doctor Panay said.
Women produce testosterone naturally and it is essential to hormonal balance but the menopause, a hysterectomy or the removal of ovaries can make levels fall. As well as damaging the sex drive this can cause muscle loss, a lack of energy and low mood.
‘I have patients who are on low levels of testosterone who report huge increases in their mood, their energy, wellbeing, muscle strength and stamina,’ Doctor Panay said.
The hormone can be taken through a patch the size of a postage stamp worn under the arm and changed every three days, at a cost of £400 per year. As a pill, doctors recommend 40mg taken daily at a cost of £8.50 for 30 pills.
There are scores of ‘natural’ libido-enhancing substances available in health shops and pharmacies but little evidence that they are effective. Ashley Grossman, an endocrinologist at the University of Oxford, said more research was needed into female desire so that effective testosterone products could be made. ‘Libido in the sex drive of men is reasonably clear cut, in women it is much more complicated,’ he said.
Professor Grossman, who routinely prescribes testosterone off-label to women with diminished sex-drives when other causes have been ruled out, dismissed concerns about possible side effects.
‘People think women will suddenly grow a beard, develop a deep voice or more masculine behaviour but these are myths,’ he said. ‘It can cause a little acne or excess hair growth but these disappear when the dosage is adjusted.’
At the Royal College of GPs conference recently, Dr Panay said that until a female product was available more is needed to be done to educate doctors on specialised off-label prescribing. ‘We’re not saying that female antigen replacement is a universal panacea, we’re not saying it is a female Viagra,’ he said.
‘Women are, after all, much more complex creatures than men and don’t respond to the on-off button that Viagra offers but I think that it should be part of the counselling process.’
Although women are in my view more delicate creatures, they are built of sterner stuff than men and yet they need more attention due to the complexities of their makeup. Sex to them is more complicated and requires special concentrated study to ensure that their wellbeing is carefully looked after, for their sensibility is a prime factor that controls almost every part of their bodies.
Unlike men they are supreme creatures without whom the very essence of life disintegrates.