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Thursday, 8 July, 1999, 07:37 GMT 08:37 UK
HRT treatment 'can increase libido'
Women facing the menopause may benefit from HRT, say doctors
Doctors are backing a hormone replacement drug which has been found to increase libido in menopausal women.

A study by the University of Amsterdam, to be published soon, reveals that women who take HRT drug tibolone, marketed as Livial, enjoyed sex more and felt less pain.

Previous research has shown that many menopausal women complain of dryness and pain on having sex.

The Hormone Replacement Therapy Research Unit at London's Guy's Hospital, led by consultant gynaecologist Janice Rymer, has been conducting the longest-running study of Livial.

A 1994 study by the unit compared women on Livial to those who took no HRT treatment.

It found women on Livial said they enjoyed sex more and had it more often.

More scientific

But Dr Edward Morris, a senior registrar at the unit which has been using the drug for 10 years, said the study was based on women's subjective feelings.

The University of Amsterdam study is more scientific, studying, for example, blood flow in the vagina following sexual stimuli.

"It shows consistent improvements," said Dr Morris.

The researchers looked at 44 women over three months.

Livial is one of a number of HRT treatments. Others include drugs which contain just oestrogen. These are recommended only for women who have had a hysterectomy.

An oestrogen and progesterone mix can be taken through a patch, tablet or by six monthly implantations.

A relatively new HRT drug called raloxifene has been shown to reduce brittle bone disease and have good early results for reducing the risk of breast cancer, says Dr Morris.

Benefits

Livial, manufactured by Cambridge-based Organon, is a synthetic drug which mixes progesterone, oestrogen and androgen.

Dr Morris says doctors are not aware enough of the benefits of Livial.

Research shows that, in addition to the libido effect, it reduces breast tenderness - a common and sometimes distressing side effect of some HRT drugs.

There are indications that it has no effect on breast cancer cells - another common worry about HRT is that it may be linked to breast cancer.

Side effects include some bleeding, but this normally lasts only a short time, and greasy skin.

However, Dr Morris says this too can be an advantage since many post-menopausal women have very dry, thin skin.

Women are concerned about suggested links between HRT and breast cancer
"Replacing hormone levels with Livial can thicken the skin and have the effect of reducing wrinkles," he said.

He added that, besides side effects like bleeding and worries about breast cancer, the reason many women come off HRT is because they expect miracle results from it because of media hype.

"HRT just restores hormonal levels to what they were before the menopause. It does improve a person's sense of energy, relieve hot flushes and protect against osteoporosis, but it is not a miracle tonic," he said.

See also:

28 Mar 99 | Health
Vitamin E 'limits menopause harm'
07 May 99 | Health
Women can benefit from Viagra
05 Jul 99 | Health
Women match men in HRT ignorance
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