Improvement in sexual function noted with placebo in some women

January 01, 0001

Improvement in sexual function noted with placebo in some women

In clinical trials of drug treatments for women's sexual dysfunction, placebo responses have often been substantial. However, little is known about the clinical significance, specificity, predictors, and potential mechanisms of placebo response in sexual dysfunction. The researchers aimed to determine the nature and predictors of sexual function outcomes in women treated with placebo for female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD). They conducted a secondary analysis of data from the placebo arm of a 12-week, multisite, randomized controlled pharmaceutical trial for FSAD (N = 50). They analyzed the magnitude, domain specificity, and clinical significance of sexual function scores at baseline, 4, 8, and 12 weeks (post- treatment). They examined longitudinal change in sexual function outcomes as a function of several baseline variables (e.g., age, symptom-related distress) and in relation to changes in sexual behavior frequency during the trial.

The magnitude of change at post-treatment was clinically significant in approximately one-third of placebo recipients. Effect sizes were similar across multiple aspects of sexual function. Symptom improvement was strongly related to the frequency of satisfying sexual encounters during treatment. However, the relationship between sexual encounter frequency and outcome varied significantly between participants.

The researchers concluded: "A substantial number of women experienced clinically significant improvement in sexual function during treatment with placebo. Changes in sexual behavior during the trial, more so than participant age or symptom severity at baseline, appeared to be an important determinant of outcome. Contextual and procedural aspects of the clinical trial may have influenced outcomes in the absence of an active drug treatment."

As they conclude, this is not as simple as taking a placebo. Also, satisfying sexual encounters would improve symptoms in such a trial, by definition, with or without placebo.

For the full abstract, click here.

The Journal of Sexual Medicine published online 16 September 2010
© 2010 International Society for Sexual Medicine
Behavior and Symptom Change Among Women Treated with Placebo for Sexual Dysfunction. Andrea Bradford and Cindy M. Meston.

Category: A. General/Unspecified. Keywords: placebo response, sexual dysfunction, sexual arousal disorders, women, arm of multisite randomized controlled trial, journal watch.
Synopsis edited by Dr Stephen Wilkinson, Melbourne, Australia. Posted on Global Family Doctor 8 October 2010

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