Placebo Effect Tied to Sexual Behavior During Trial

Many women treated with placebo for sexual dysfunction have clinically significant improvement
By Monica Smith
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- A substantial proportion of women treated with placebo for female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD) experience clinically significant sexual function improvements, and changes in sexual behavior appear to be predictive of outcomes in sexual function, according to research published online Sept. 16 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Andrea Bradford, Ph.D., of the Houston Center for Quality of Care and Utilization Studies, and Cindy M. Meston, Ph.D., of the University of Texas at Austin, analyzed data from 50 subjects in the placebo arm of a 12-week, randomized controlled trial for FSAD to determine the nature and predictors of placebo response.

The researchers found that a third of the placebo recipients experienced a clinically significant magnitude of change post-treatment. Improvement in symptoms was strongly associated with the frequency of satisfying sexually encounters during treatment, though this relationship varied significantly among participants. The authors write that changes in sexual behavior during the trial seemed to be a more important predictor of outcome than age or symptom severity at baseline.

"Our work suggests that there is a close relationship between increased satisfying sexual behavior and sexual function outcomes in women receiving placebo treatment for sexual dysfunction, although there appears to be individual variation in the strength of this relationship. Promising targets for future study include evaluation of outcomes in waitlist/natural history versus placebo treatment groups, testing of psychosocial predictor variables as moderators of placebo response, the influence of partner behavior and expectancies on outcomes, and the effects of behavior change manipulations on outcomes," the authors conclude.

The trial was sponsored by Eli Lilly/ICOS Corporation.

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