Glamour - August 1999

Health Report by Curtis Pesmen

LUST LOTIONS: Move over Viagra - a Batch of New Women's Love Drugs Are Coming. After the orgasmic hype surrounding the 1998 introduction of the male erection drug Viagra, you'd have thought that doctors and researchers in the sex-drug field were ready to roll over and fall asleep. Well, women are in luck! Instead of dozing off, sex scientists are finally waking up to women's needs-and scrambling to test and develop drugs that enable or enhance women's ability to achieve orgasm. Today, a batch of new lust potions aimed directly at your sex life are on the horizon. Due for possible release in the next six months to three years, many of the inventions would employ drugs already approved for use by men. But unlike many of the male-sexual-dysfunction drugs, which come in pill form or are injected directly into the penis (ouch!), most of the products for women will be gels or creams, designed for pre-sex application right where it counts.

It's about time. "The success of Viagra has caused women to ask, 'Hey, what about us?' It's just becoming much less taboo to address women's sexuality," explains Julie Phillips, clinical project coordinator of Pentech Pharmaceuticals in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. Pentech is conducting test involving 50 women to see if the drug apomorphine-which has been shown to remedy the psychological as well as the physical aspects of male erectile dysfunction-"can also increase women's sexual desire and functioning," Phillips says. Results are expected next year.

"We're going full speed ahead with our development plans for a product for women," confirms Leland Wilson, president of Vivus, Inc., the Silicon Valley pharmaceutical firm that makes MUSE, a male erection drug that predates Viagra but hasn't been as financially successful (perhaps because it is inserted directly into the urethra rather than taken orally in pill form!). Vivus received a patent this past March for a hormone-based cream for women that's designed to boost blood flow to the vagina and clitoris in order to increase women's sexual sensitivity. Vivus is currently testing the cream, and at least five other companies (including Pfizer, which makes Viagra) are working to come up with products aimed at women. The perceived demand for female love drugs is so great, in fact, that The New York Times recently reported that it could lead to the creation of "a $500-billion industry."

Even individual doctors are recognizing that men aren't the only ones with below-the-belt problems and sex lives that need a jolt. "I've always been interested in treating sexual dysfunction, and in my practice, that meant addressing impotence," say Jed Kaminetsky, M.D., a urologist in private practice in New York City and a faculty member of New York University School of Medicine. Three years ago, however, it dawned on him that by working only with male patients, "I was only treating half of the problem."

Turning his attention to women, Dr. Kaminetsky began experimenting to find a drug that would heighten their arousal during sex. "The goal was to find something that-from a physical rather than psychological standoint-would give nonorgasmic women the ability to climax and generally improve sex for any woman who used it," Dr. Kaminetsky says.

The doctor's labor paid off early this year when he got promising results from the tests of two of his creams. One contains sildenafil citrate, the main ingredient in Viagra (although Viagra itself has not been FDA approved for use on women, it is a legal drug, so doctors can prescribe or use it "off-label," meaning for other purposes). The other, which Dr. Kaminetsky calls Dream Cream, is an off-lable combination of two vasodilators, or blood-flow enhancers. One is aminophylline, a drug prescribed primarily to asthmatics because it dilates a patient's airways. The other is L-arginine, an amino acid available in health-food stores and, incidentally, used by some athletes to promote muscle development. Though he doesn't completely understand why, "the creams, applied to the clitoris and labia, seem to help just about all women," claims Dr. Kaminetsky. "They result in better lubrication, and more arousal and pleasure. They facilitate orgasm."

Dr. Kaminetsky's creams are still in experimental stages. Neither has undergone scientific tests on large numbers of women, a necessary step before the FDA would consider granting approval. And for now they are available exclusively from Dr. Kaminetsky as off-label prescriptions. But their potential was so, uh, exciting that when Dr. Kaminetsky's wonder creams came to his attention of Glamour this past spring, seven of the magazine's editors courageously volunteered to test them as part of an exclusive study. (Tough
work, but somebody had to do it!) More than 20 women selected by Dr. Kaminetsky's office also took part in the experiment.
The results, ranged from disappointing to explosive; in Glamour's small and by no means conclusive test, the Dream Cream was even more effective that the one containing sildenafil, but both produced a noticeable difference in genital sensation before and during sex. And that's not all-not by a long shot. "I had 12 orgasms!" Janice, 36, a New York City personal trainer, reported after one lovemaking session using the Dream Cream. "For me, three or four a night might be normal, sometimes only two, depending on my mood. Twelve is the most I've ever had." (For the record: Her orgasms were not all intercourse-induced; manual stimulation and a vibrator were also involved.)

But for those who have trouble having one orgasm during sex, let alone 12, it's really still much too soon to predict whether Dr. Kaminetsky's creams, or any of the other new lust lotions in development, will provide a magical solution. After experiencing good between-the-sheets results with the sildenafil cream, one Glamour editor mused: "Ws the sex better because of something in my head, where I think 90 percent of sexual arousal takes place? In other words, did the cream actually make a difference? Or was the sex better because I expected it to be?"

These questions highlight an obvious but relevant point: Achieving orgasm depends on psychological and emotional factors, not just physical ability. With this in mind, several companies are now also developing drugs that address the mental side of women's libido and desire. One aim of Pentech Pharmaceutical's planned sex drug for women, for example, is to make the brain release the feel-good chemical dopamine, which could put women more in the mood to have sex. Meanwhile, Atlanta-based Solvay Pharmaceuticals, the creators of a hormone-replacement therapy called ESTRATEST, is studying the drug's effect of women's libido.

But before you line up to buy the new lust lotions and potions, know this: The potential side effects of many of the new drugs are still unknown. It's impossible to tell, for instance, whether Dr. Kaminetsky's creams are 100 percent safe for long-term use by women. Because they're applied topically to just one part of the body and contain low drug dosages, they're presumable safer than taking a pill, which introduces drugs to the liver because it is ingested orally. However, no large-scare clinical tests have been done of either drug on women. In addition, "any topical drug applied to the genital area increases the risk of skin or mucous membrane irritation," which can make it easier to contract and STD, says Jean Marie Guise, M.D., director of clinical research at the department of ob-gyn at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. In fact, one of Glamour's editors experienced genital irritation the day after using the sildenafil cream.

Nonetheless, a time is close when women with real sexual dysfunctions will have fresh options and the rest of us will get to choose whether chemically enhances sex is better than going au naturel. Finally, women are getting a piece of the passion pie! So slide over Viagra-your partner's coming. Soon, and often. At first, out lovemaking after seeing Dunn was stilted as Daniel tried to implement some of the techniques we’d discussed. But his willingness to suffer through this awkwardness touched me. And then one might we threw our old sexual script and started fresh. With Dunn, we’d discovered that I had an antipathy for “cold starts.” I needed to flirt, to anticipate sex, to kiss and feel Daniel’s body against me before he touched my breasts or genitals. If my desire was allowed to build, by the time we moved on to more intimate contact I’d be too far gone to fixate on being caressed in one particular way. This time, when he started to take off his shirt, I took charge: I pushed him away and rolled on top of him. I rubbed my clothed body against his, and we made out fervently. I felt like I was sixteen again, with all the attendant desire and determination to resist my increasingly excited boyfriend. I took his hand, and we got started.