Sex Patches Versus Candlelight

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No matter how many studies suggest that testosterone, the hormone of sexual desire for both men and women, can help overcome a decreased libido, I will still be a fan of romantic dinners.

Recent studies revealed that 25-50 percent of women have a low sex drive. I suspect that stress, dealing with diapers, lack of sleep and selfish mates have as much to do with this as an ebb in hormones. Nevertheless, in the wake of these findings, a new study, just published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, has found an increased rate of "satisfying sexual episodes" in postmenopausal women who used a 300 mcg testosterone patch.

At a time when reproductive hormones are falling (post menopause), it is not surprising that a little testosterone goes a long way to rekindle the flame. But there is a clear cost. Testosterone can increase facial hair, muscular development, and even give you a lower voice. So, you may feel like having more sex, but you may look more like a man which could turn your partner off. Plus, there are the longer term risks to consider including potentially breast cancer, heart attack, or stroke.

Testosterone patches are not approved for this use by the FDA, though they have been prescribed as sexual enhancers for women "off-label" for many years. An FDA advisory panel has considered them as recently as 2004, but rejected them on the basis of safety issues. I'm sure that Proctor and Gamble, which manufactures the Intrinsa testosterone patch, and provided research grants for the current study, aptly named APHRODITE, will now expect the FDA to reconsider the issue, based on the study's positive results. But safety is still an important issue. 4 of the study participants who received the patch as opposed to the placebo - were diagnosed with breast cancer. The long term risk of heart attack and stroke has still not been sufficiently studied, and remains a major concern.

I am not yet an advocate of these patches, though I know many other knowledgeable doctors who are, and have found them to be quite effective. For these doctors I would say that if romance isn't the answer, that perhaps they are being reasonable to consider prescribing the patches on a case by case basis, even while I have my eye on the need for further research.

Dr. Marc Siegel is an internist and associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. He is a FOX News Medical Contributor and writes a health column for LA Times, where he examines TV and movies for medical accuracy. Dr. Siegel is the author of "False Alarm: the Truth About the Epidemic of Fear" and "Bird Flu: Everything You Need to Know About the Next Pandemic". Read more at