Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Observer | Magazine | Julian Dibbell repors on 'women's viagra'

The Observer | Magazine | Julian Dibbell repors on 'women's viagra': "

Let us spray

Billed as libido in an atomiser, PT-141 will finally offer women the chance to turn on their sexual desire as and when they need it. Or so the science says. But there are concerns. Will sex in a spray usher in an age of 'McNookie' - quick easy couplings low on emotional nutrition? Julian Dibbell reports

Sunday April 23, 2006
The Observer

Horn of rhinoceros. Penis of tiger. Root of sea holly. Husk of the emerald-green blister beetle known as the Spanish fly. So colourful and exotic is the list of substances that have been claimed to heighten sexual appetite that it is hard not to feel a twinge of disappointment on first beholding the latest entry - a small, white plastic nasal inhaler containing an odourless, colourless synthetic chemical called PT-141. Plain as it is, however, there is one thing that distinguishes PT-141 from the 4,000 years' worth of recorded medicinal aphrodisiacs that precede it: this one actually works.

And it could reach the market in as little as three years. The full range of possible risks and side effects has yet to be determined, but already this much is known: a dose of PT-141 results, in most cases, in a stirring in the loins in as little as 15 minutes. Women, according to one set of results, feel 'genital warmth, tingling and throbbing', not to mention 'a strong desire to have sex'.

Among men who have been tested with the drug more extensively, the data set is richer: 'With PT-141, you feel good,' reported anonymous patient 007: 'not only sexually aroused, you feel younger and more energetic.' According to another patient, 'It helped the libido. So you have the urge and the desire...' Tales of pharmaceutically induced sexual prowess among 58-year-olds are common enough in the age of the Little Blue Pill, but they don't typically involve quite so urgent a repertoire. Or, as patient 128 put it: 'My wife knows. She can tell the difference between Viagra and PT-141.'

The precise mechanisms by which PT-141 does its job remain unclear, but the rough idea is this: where Viagra acts on the circulatory system, helping blood flow into the penis, PT-141 goes to the brain itself. 'It's not merely allowing a sexual response to take place more easily,' explains Michael A Perelman, co-director of the Human Sexuality Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital and a sexual-medicine adviser on the PT-141 trials. 'It may be having an effect, literally, on how we think and feel.'"

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