The erectile dysfunction drug Viagra has proven effective at combating sexual dysfunction in depressed women, according to a study published Tuesday.
Sexual dysfunction is a common side effect of antidepressants and a major reason why people stop taking medication for their depression.
This is particularly problematic given that twice as many women as men are prescribed antidepressants but the most effective drugs used to combat sexual dysfunction in men are not approved for use in women, the authors wrote.
Researchers tested Viagra on 98 women whose depression was in remission but were still experiencing sexual dysfunction such as lack of arousal or pain during sex.
The women were told to take a pill one to two hours before sex for eight weeks. Half were given placebos pills which had no pharmacological effects.
Some 73 percent of the women given placebos reported no improvement with treatment while only 28 percent of the women taking Viagra said they did not notice an improvement, the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found.
Some of the women experienced headaches, flushing and indigestion but none of them withdrew from the trial because of side effects.
"By treating this bothersome treatment-associated adverse effect in patients who have been effectively treated for depression, but need to continue on their medication to avoid relapse or recurrence, patients can remain antidepressant-adherent, reduce the current high rates of premature medication discontinuation, and improve depression disease management outcomes," wrote lead author George Nurnberg of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.