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Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
HRT patches 'boost libido'
Libido can be affected by the menopause
Libido can be affected by the menopause
Hormone replacement patches may increase the libido of postmenopausal women, a study has found.

HRT pills, combining oestrogen and a synthetic progesterone, are traditionally given to women to treat the physical symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

But they suppress "male" sex hormones such as testosterone, which are needed for both male and female libido.

HRT users had a greater degree of sexual satisfaction

Professor Subir Roy
Research presented to the 10th World Congress on the Menopause in Berlin carried out by researchers from the University of Southern California suggests giving HRT via patches can stimulate these hormones.

There is currently no treatment to boost low libido for the millions of postmenopausal women affected, though some research has suggested the male hormones may help.

But there can be problems finding the right dose, and women can suffer side effects such as excessive hair growth and acne.

The team say HRT patches allow the woman's body to use the hormones, including the testosterone, already in her body, more effectively.

First step

The study involved 23 postmenopausal women who were given a combination oestrogen/progesterone patch.

The researchers admit their results are only preliminary.

Subir Roy, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, led the research.

He said it was the first step in showing HRT patches should be the first choice for treating postmenopausal women, before trying male hormone therapies.

Further research, partially backed by Novogyne Pharmaceuticals, which markets the CombiPatch used in the study, is underway.

Professor Roy added: "The results presented today might be the first step in providing a new solution for post-menopausal women, since preliminary results show that HRT from a patch had positive effects on mood and libido, leading to more orgasms.

"The results of our study showed that patch users, in comparison to oral HRT users, have higher levels of androgens (male sex hormones), including free testosterone, and a greater degree of sexual satisfaction."

"Female sexual dysfunction - low libido, slow arousal, difficulty reaching orgasms and painful intercourse - is a problem that many menopausal women view as a normal part of ageing and have simply decided to accept.

"Where men have the choice of the little blue pill, there is a lack of treatment options for women.

Terry Linehan, from Los Angeles, California, who took part in the study, said: "The stereotype of older people not being interested in having good sex just isn't true.

"A satisfying sex life is very important to most marriages, no matter what your age.

"I wasn't looking for a miracle pill or a quick fix. I just hoped that if the reason behind my low libido was due to my hormone levels that I could help find a way to regulate the problem."

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