Women 'should be offered testosterone to boost flagging sex drive'
More women should be offered testosterone on the NHS to boost their flagging sex drives, doctors suggest.
Nick Panay, consultant gynaecologist at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said there was a need to counsel women on its possible benefits, which can also include improved energy and mood.
He told family doctors attending the Royal College of GPs' conference in Harrogate: " We're not saying that female androgen replacement is a universal panacea. We're not saying it is a female Viagra. Women are, after all, much more complex creatures than men (and do not respond) to the on/off button that Viagra offers.
"But I think that it should be part of the counselling process."
A loss of sexual desire is estimated to affect around one in three women at some point in their lives.
The medical term for the condition is Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. Many factors are thought to contribute to low libido, including medical or mental health problems, hormonal factors and relationship issues.
Mr Panay, who is the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' (RCOG) spokesman on menopause, said: " I strongly believe testosterone should be made available to all women who would benefit. Loss of libido impacts 15% of menopausal women.
"It is not just about a lack of sex drive. I have patients who report huge increases in their mood, their energy, well-being, muscle strength and stamina. They go from feeling drained to being able to run marathons again.
"Despite research showing that testosterone for women can increase libido there are no licensed products available.
"There was a patch and an implant that were both taken off the market and had their licenses withdrawn because companies thought they were not commercially viable.
"It is very frustrating that we have to prescribe it 'off-label'. These are medications designed for men - the doses are too high and have to be measured down and all the product information is for male use."
Dr Channa Jayasena, a clinical senior lecturer in endocrinology at Imperial College London, said testosterone can be given to women in much lower doses than men.
He said: "It's mainly given in a patch. Women have both sex hormones - oestrogen but also testosterone, made by their adrenal glands and also the ovaries.
"It is a natural hormone but less is known about its effects.
"There has been an argument for some time to give this to women beyond the menopause - in certain cases when they're experiencing low libido."
The comments come after figures from NHS Digital analysed by Pulse magazine showed p rescriptions of testosterone have gone up by a fifth in three years.
Last year, GPs wrote 374,457 prescriptions for testosterone, which costs the NHS £21.3 million.
Experts in the so-called "male menopause" say the condition can cause tiredness, sexual problems and lack of strength.