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A boost for women’s low libido?

Rating

4 Star

A boost for women’s low libido?

Our Review Summary

This story reports on the further testing of a testosterone gel to treat women with decreased libido and the manufacturer’s hopes of getting FDA approval within the next few years. If approved, this gel would represent the first treatment specifically aimed at women with low libido.

The story clearly states that the gel is not yet available and is still in experimental stages. The story mentions that the company expects the gel to be available in 2011, however it does little to explain the rationale behind this prediction.

The story mentions the side effects of excessive testosterone in women and does a good job of describing concerns about safety that have yet to be examined in longer-term studies. The story also does a good job of not overly medicalizing declining libido in women. For example, the story avoids such labels as "female sexual dysfunction" and "hypoactive sexual desire disorder" that are used throughout the manufacturer’s press release that only serve to exagerrate the seriousness of the condition.

Finally, although the story adequately describes the design of the current studies, the story errs in discussing testosterone as a possible therapy for declining libido in postmenopausal women in general.  The studies are being conducted in a specific subgroup of postmenopausal women, those who have undergone surgical menopause (removal of the ovaries), not natural menopause.  It is misleading to imply as the article does that results in this group would be broadly applicable to all menopausal women.  There is already strong evidence that testosterone supplements in surgically menopausal women are beneficial for improving libido, but scant evidence in naturally menopausal women. 

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not discuss costs. Although the gel is not yet available, the drug company should have some idea of what the cost of the product will be. The story also could have mentioned the costs of currently available male testosterone gels as a reference point even if it’s too early to know the cost of the female product.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not quantify the benefits of treatment. It says that in one study, "the women using LibiGel reported a significantly increased number of satisfying sexual events compared with baseline measures and compared with the placebo group."  Readers should be told what "significantly increased number" means. Is it 5?  15?  50? 

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story mentions the side effects of excessive testosterone in women and does a good job of describing concerns about safety that have yet to be examined in longer-term studies.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The story adequately describes the design of the current studies and the plan for future research. However, the story makes a mistake by discussing testosterone as a possible therapy for declining libido in postmenopausal women in general.  The studies are being conducted in a specific subgroup of postmenopausal women, those who have undergone surgical menopause (removal of the ovaries), not natural menopause.  It is misleading to imply as the article does that results in this group would be broadly applicable to all menopausal women.  There is already strong evidence that testosterone supplements in surgically menopausal women are beneficial for improving libido, but scant evidence in naturally menopausal women. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does a good job of not overly medicalizing declining libido in women. For example, the story avoids such labels as "female sexual dysfunction" and "hypoactive sexual desire disorder" that are used throughout the company’s press release that only serve to exagerrate the seriousness of the condition.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story mentions womens’ off-label use of testosterone products for men as an alternative. It could have mentioned non-testosterone alternatives but there isn’t much evidence for effectiveness of these, so we’ll give the story the benefit of the doubt on this criterion. 

 

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The story clearly states that the gel is not yet available and is still in experimental stages. The story states that the company expects the gel to be available in 2011, yet it does little to explain the rationale behind this prediction.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story clearly states that although testosterone for libido is not a new idea, the gel would represent the first product specifically aimed at using it as a treatment in women. However, the story should have mentioned that what is novel is the gel delivery form of testosterone. There has long been a pill on the market for women, Estratest, that contains methyltestosterone combined with estrogen.  It is FDA approved for traetment of "vasomotor symptoms not improved by estrogens alone" with no specific mention of sexual function.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

Because the story quotes multiple experts in addition to representatives of the drug company, the reader can assume that the story does not rely on a press release as the sole source of information.

Total Score: 7 of 10 Satisfactory

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