Try testosterone for some women with sexual dysfunction, but not others



The panel points out, however, that randomized controlled trials with testosterone therapy have excluded women who are at high risk of cardiometabolic disease, and that women with a previous diagnosis of breast cancer have also been excluded from randomized trials of testosterone in women with HSDD. This is a “big issue,” said Dr. Wierman, and means that recommendations regarding the effect of testosterone in postmenopausal women with HSDD may not be generalizable to possible at-risk subpopulations.

The panel endorsed testosterone therapy specifically for women with HSDD because most of the studies reporting on sexual function have recruited women with diagnosed HSDD. Demonstrated benefits of testosterone in these cases include improved sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, and pleasure, and reduced concerns and distress about sex. HSDD should be diagnosed after formal biopsychosocial assessment, the statement notes.

“We don’t completely understand the control of sexual function in women, but it’s very dependent on estrogen status. And it’s also dependent on psychosocial factors, emotional health, relationship issues, and physical issues,” Dr. Wierman said in the interview.

“In practice, we look at all these issues, and we first optimize estrogen status. Once that’s done, and we’ve looked at all the other components of sexual function, then we can consider off-label use of testosterone,” she said. “If there’s no response in 3-6 months, we stop it.”

Testosterone levels do not correlate with sexual dysfunction, Dr. Wierman emphasized, and direct assays for the measurement of total and free testosterone are unreliable. The statement acknowledges that but still recommends measurement of testosterone using direct assays, in cases in which liquid/gas chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry assay (which has “high accuracy and reproducibility”) are not available. This is “to exclude high baseline concentrations and also to exclude supraphysiological concentrations during treatment,” the panel said.

Most endocrinologists and other experts who prescribe testosterone therapy for women use an approved male formulation off label and adjust it – an approach that the panel says is reasonable as long as hormone concentrations are “maintained in the physiologic female range.”

Compounded “bioidentical” testosterone therapy “cannot be recommended for the treatment of HSDD because of the lack of evidence for safety and efficacy,” the statement says.

“A big concern of many endocrinologists,” Dr. Wierman added, “is the recent explosion of using pharmacological levels of both estrogen and testosterone in either [injections] or pellets.” The Endocrine Society and other societies have alerted the Food and Drug Administration to “this new cottage industry, which may have significant side effects and risks for our patients,” she said.
Dr. Wierman reported received funding from Corcept Therapeutics, Novartis, and the Cancer League of Colorado, and honoraria or consultation fees from Pfizer to review ASPIRE grant applications for studies of acromegaly as well as Endocrine Society honorarium for teaching in the Endocrine Board Review and Clinical Endocrine Update. Dr. Davis reported receiving funding from a National Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant, a National Breast Foundation accelerator grant, and the Grollo-Ruzenne Foundation, as well as honoraria from Besins and Pfizer Australia. She has been a consultant to Besins Healthcare, Mayne Pharmaceuticals, Lawley Pharmaceuticals, and Que Oncology. Disclosures for other authors of the position statement are listed with the statement.

SOURCE: Davis SR et al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2019 Sep 2. doi: 10.1210/jc.2019-01603.

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