March 25, 2023

The number of women being prescribed testosterone gel in the NHS has increased tenfold after it was recommended as a way to increase sexual desire.

Experts expressed concern about the excessive use of the treatment in younger women and it is considered “a solution to relationship problems”.

Use of the sex hormone has skyrocketed since November 2015, when the drug watchdog first warned that it could help women combat low sex drive.

NHS data, obtained through a freedom of information request, reveals that a record 4,675 women aged 50 and over were prescribed testosterone gel on the NHS in November 2022.

Experts are concerned that testosterone treatment is being overused in younger women to increase their sex drive as a “relationship solution.”

This is an increase from 429 women in November 2015.

The number of women age 49 and younger who received testosterone gel also increased from 228 in November 2015 to a peak of 2,913 in November 2022, the most recent month available.

Rates in both age groups began to rise more steeply in early 2021 as awareness of menopause symptoms increased and the first of Davina McCall’s menopause documentaries aired on Channel 4.

The prescription of testosterone gel for men increased by only a third during the same period, research from The Pharmaceutical Journal reveals.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) published guidance on menopause in November 2015 stating that clinicians should only consider testosterone supplementation for low libido if hormone replacement therapy alone it is not effective.

But experts say they are concerned the treatment is being used inappropriately.

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Paula Briggs, a sexual and reproductive health consultant at Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust and president of the British Menopause Society, said there is a problem in the UK with misinformation about the potential benefits of testosterone.

“Women are led to believe that it is the missing piece of the puzzle, that it will be the solution to their relationship problems,” she said.

“I think we have to be much more scientific about how that information is provided to women.

“It comes from celebrities and politicians, and that’s not necessarily appropriate.

“We don’t have evidence to say that it improves any of the other symptoms that I think women sometimes seek treatment for.”

This could include cognition, mood, energy and musculoskeletal health, he added.

Susan Davis, an Australian hormone expert who is an advisor to the NHS menopause group steering committee, said: “We don’t know if women under 49 taking testosterone are premenopausal or postmenopausal; if they are mainly premenopausal, this is concerning as evidence for Lack of support for this.’

There are currently no licensed testosterone treatments for women in the UK, so NHS doctors prescribe “off-label” licensed products for men at lower doses considered suitable for women.

However, this can be problematic as women often have to estimate the amount needed and patient information leaflets are inappropriate.

AndroFeme cream was licensed for female use in Australia in 2020 and is currently imported into the UK for private use under a special license from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The company’s chief executive, Michael Buckley, said it is preparing to submit a marketing authorization application for AndroFeme to the UK regulator “in the near future”.

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