Viagra for Women?

A dietary supplement manufacturer claims that its product can enhance women's sexual fitness.

When Hank Wuh, MD, MPH, saw Viagra's slogan, "Let the dance begin," the Silicon Valley physician/surgeon/inventor thought, "It takes two to tango."

Last year, Dr. Wuh's firm, Daily Wellness Company, of Mountain View, Calif., introduced ArginMax, a nutritional supplement for men's "sexual fitness." Startled to discover that women were using it, too--and enjoying its benefits--his staff "soon set out to develop a women's product leading to better arousal, engorgement and circulation," explains the founder/chairman.

ArginMax is currently the only nutritional supplement for women's sexual health on the market that has been tested in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, according to Dr. Wuh. In the Daily Wellness research, 49 women, ages 24 to 71, were randomized to either a four-week regimen of ArginMax or placebo. Among the 25 patients in the active group, 19 (76%) claimed improved sexual desire and 18 (72%) reported greater satisfaction with their sex lives. In the placebo group of 24 women, the corresponding rates of improvement were 38% and 33%, respectively. No side effects were reported.

Early in the research, Dr. Wuh asked Mary Lake Polan, MD, PhD, chair of the Gynecology Department at Stanford University School of Medicine, in California, if sexual dysfunction is a widespread problem for women. "No one ever mentioned it until Bob Dole talked about erectile dysfunction on national TV. Then women began telling me, 'My husband's taking Viagra, but I'm not interested." Suddenly, it was okay to discuss it," recalled Dr. Polan, a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Daily Wellness Company.

Reviewing the initial study, Dr. Polan advised enrolling more patients. A second round was recently completed by Aileen Trant, PhD, a nutritionist who works for Daily Wellness. The study included an additional 28 women, bringing to 77 the total number of women evaluated in Phases I and II.

Confirming Results

Results from the second round of the study corroborated the earlier findings, according to Daily Wellness Company. The first study was presented at an international symposium, "New Perspectives in Management of Female Sexual Dysfunction," held at Boston University in October 1999. The peer-reviewed Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy recently announced that it would publish findings from the initial phase of the study. "Now I feel they're ready for [an even] larger study, looking at hormonal status, separating subjects by pre- and postmenopausal estrogen levels," said Dr. Polan.

Dr. Wuh considers circulation (regulated by nitric oxide) critical to sexual health. "Viagra temporarily inhibits the enzyme that breaks down nitric oxide," he said. "Our gentle, gradual approach maximizes natural production of nitric oxide, so it lasts longer." Botanical extracts in ArginMax may stimulate conversion of L-arginine, a naturally occurring amino acid, into nitric oxide, he explained.

Varro Tyler, PhD, who recently reviewed ArginMax's contents on KPIX-TV (San Francisco), remarked that "ginseng is a mild stimulant; ginkgo biloba stimulates blood flow; L-arginine could help send blood to sex organs. Putting these together, we have a product that seems pretty good, in theory. We need more research with more patients, but I think this is hopeful and very, very interesting."

Interest in a nutritional supplement for women's sexual dysfunction may increase on the heels of a new study showing that Viagra (sildenafil, Pfizer) may not work in women. The study included 577 women with sexual arousal disorder, and found that placebo was actually more effective than Viagra, according to an article posted on the Internet by ReutersHealth. The data were presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in San Francisco.

--Carol Milano

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