As I’ve described before, women often experience a drop in sexual desire approaching and after menopause. Your body doesn’t produce as much testosterone, which is an important driver of desire in women, as well as in men. The medical name for it is hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), and in September, a new treatment will be available.
Vyleesi is the first as-needed treatment for HSDD, so I expect it to generate some buzz. You self-administer the drug by injection into your abdomen or thigh 45 minutes to 12 hours before sexual activity. In the clinical trials, about a quarter of participants taking Vyleesi reported some increase in desire. While trials of HSDD drugs are complicated, it’s worth noting that most women who completed the study chose to keep using Vyleesi.
The drug is thought to work by activating melanocortin receptors, which affect mood, among other things, but the FDA announcement about the drug acknowledges that it doesn’t know exactly how it works.
Side effects include nausea, which caused some women to stop participating in the clinical trials. One percent were affected by hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin and gums), another possible side effect.
While it has been approved only for premenopausal women, it likely works the same way in post-menopausal women; there’s no data yet showing that.
While every medication isn’t perfect for every woman, Vyleesi will help some of them. It’s another possible tool to boost desire, and I always favor filling the toolbox. As always, talk to your doctor. In the meantime, don’t forget that you have other options! Erotica or a vibrator might arouse your desire.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.