Upstate News

May 15, 2001
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

New study sheds light on treating SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction

In the first clinical study of its kind, researchers at SUNY Upstate Medical University have found that a popular strategy, Wellbutrin SR in commonly used doses, does not correct antidepressant-induced sexual function. The findings are published in the May issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Researchers found no significant difference between patients who were given Wellbutrin SR in time-released form at 150 mg, with those in the placebo group. “The patients who were taking the drug did not experience any lessening of sexual dysfunction than those who were in our placebo group,” said Prakash S. Masand, M.D., professor of psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University. “The study provides us with evidence that Wellbutrin SR at 150 mg is not adequate in treating sexual dysfunction as a side effect of antidepressants.”

Sexual dysfunction is the most frequent side effect of one of the most common classes of antidepressants called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), known commercially as Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Paxil, among others. Sexual side effects which occur in 30 to 40 percent of patients on SSRIs include diminished desire, orgasmic difficulties, ejaculation delay or erectile difficulties. “It is key to find a treatment for the side effect of sexual dysfunction, as failure to treat may cause SSRI users to stop taking

The study randomly assigned 30 adults into two groups, one took 150 mg of sustained release Wellbutrin, the other a placebo each evening for three weeks. All patients had been taking SSRIs for 6 weeks, were not depressed, and had reported sexual dysfunction as determined by the Arizona Sexual Experiences Scale. Wellbutrin SR was well tolerated with side effects similar to the placebo group.

Other treatments for SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction include drugs such as Viagara, Remeron, Serzone, Yocon and Ginkgo Biloba. Other strategies include decreasing the dose, waiting for tolerance to develop and stopping medication for a limited time.

“Clinicians are always looking for information related to this specific side effect and there is certainly a need for more studies to find the right combination of drug and dosage to treat the side effect of sexual dysfunction,” Masand said.

SUNY Upstate Medical University is one of the nation’s 125 academic medical centers and one of four medical universities in the State University of New York system.

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