Could a testosterone patch revive women’s libido drive after menopause? 2023

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Menopausal women will soon test a testosterone patch to increase their sex drive. Rachel Ellis evaluates this patch’s impact on women’s health.

Women’s testosterone role?

Women need testosterone too.

It boosts mood, sleep, libido, and bone health in women. Women’s ovaries and adrenal glands generate testosterone, while men’s testes do.

DO WOMEN’S LEVELS CHANGE?

“Levels peak in women in their mid-20s and start to decline from the 30s onwards,” says Dr. Haitham Hamoda, consultant gynecologist and menopausal lead at King’s College Hospital, London, and immediate past chair of the British Menopausal Society.

“However, unless a woman is experiencing symptoms of low sex drive that doesn’t improve with estrogen treatment, we wouldn’t check her testosterone levels.”

“Women have about a tenth of the testosterone that men have,” says Dr. Hamoda.

Low testosterone effects?

It can lower sex drive, a frequent menopause symptom.

Some menopausal women have poor sex drive due to sickness, medicine, or interpersonal issues.

If HRT fails, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends testosterone for women with reduced libido.

Dr. Hamoda says testosterone boosts sex drive in many menopausal women.

However, testosterone is not licensed to treat energy, mood, sleep, or bone health. This needs more study.”

IS IT NHS FOR WOMEN?

UK ladies have no authorized testosterone product. Tostran, Testim, and Testogel, three testosterone gels for males, are applied daily. GPs and specialists can prescribe these to low-libido women on the NHS and privately.

Some NHS GPs are hesitant to prescribe it, possibly because it is approved for men or because of local prescription rules.

Dr. Hamoda says some NHS GPs will prescribe it only when a specialist doctor recommends it for the woman.

UK ladies would appreciate a testosterone patch. A custom preparation would be more reassuring.”

UK women getting testosterone therapy are unknown.

Does it cost privately?

Testosterone gel costs £80 for six months on the NHS and privately. Private doctors may test testosterone levels and charge for consultations.

Men, too?

The three testosterone gels for ladies in this country are made for guys. This makes it difficult for women to estimate their dose (doctors usually recommend taking a little amount of a sachet).

“Doses are normally around 5mg a day for women—10 times lower than the typical 50mg for men,” says Dr. Hamoda.

Testosterone shortage in men is called “male menopause” by some, however, specialists disagree on its severity.

Superdrug Online Doctor’s male testosterone test-and-treat service debuted in 2019, and has grown steadily. Orders for this service increased by 190% in the past year.

THE NEW PATCH’S BENEFITS?

The new patch works like gels. Its formulation for ladies eliminates the guesswork and stress of how much gel to apply.

Dr. Hamoda thinks the testosterone patch is convenient like HRT estrogen patches.

The first female testosterone patch?

In 2007, the NHS introduced Intrinsa, a female testosterone patch.

This was discontinued 10 years ago for commercial reasons. Insufficient data prevented US approval.

AndroFeme, a new female testosterone cream registered in Australia, can be imported for private use in the UK under a special license from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA).

When will the patch be available?

A University of Warwick-affiliated firm is developing a testosterone patch for menopausal women with “low libido and reduced zest for life.” David Haddleton, a chemistry professor leading the project, said the new patch will be tested in autumn 2023.

“Our work isn’t just theoretical, but instead aimed at a problem women are facing, which can drastically affect their everyday lives and job,” he said.

“This could deliver a product that is much needed and is just not available.” Even if the trials succeed, the patches may not be widely available for several years.

Testosterone side effects?

“Overall, testosterone treatment is very safe and side effects in women are uncommon,” says Dr. Hamoda.

However, like with all androgen (male sex hormone) therapy, acne, increased hair growth, and hair thinning can occur, especially with higher testosterone doses.

“You have to take a lot over a long time to experience this. It’s safe to exceed the suggested dose.”

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