For those of you who've been under a rock lately, listen-up! online pharmacy viagra, in a small study of 98 participants, was shown to decrease the sexual dysfunction of women on anti-depressants. The study was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) within the last two weeks.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the study subjects were women with major depression who reported sexual dysfunction after they began taking antidepressant drugs such as Zoloft and Prozac. The women were randomly assigned to receive either Viagra or a placebo for eight weeks, although I don't know if the researchers were also blinded to the drug assignment. (A double-blind study's results are generally considered more valid than a single-blind study.)
The participants rated their sexual dysfunction, on a scale of 1-7 with 7 being the worst, prior to the study commencing. The average rating of the Viagra group was nearly identical to the placebo group's average. However, after the eight week trial, the Viagra group's rating went from 4.8 to 2.8, which was significantly larger than the placebo group's change from 4.7 to 3.6. The Viagra group also reported more side effects than the placebo group.
As the WSJ noted, Viagra has not been approved for use in women, and Pfizer gave up pursuing FDA approval after previous drug studies failed to show a significant benefit.
I planned to write a comical commentary about this topic when the news first broke. However, after following the news for a bit, it became clear that I needed a different approach. The study, and the reporting of the study, has created a sea of controversy. Comments across the web ridicule the study's small sample size and its funding by Pfizer (although Pfizer apparently had no input into the study). More derisiveness has been leveled at JAMA for publishing a poor study and accusing them of publicity-seeking. And of course, the "depression isn't a medical illness which should even be medicated in the first place" crowd is up in arms about throwing another medication on top of "ineffective antidepressants." Whew...was there this much controversy when Viagra for MEN arrived on the scene??
But I digress...
My concern involves none of the above. A small study can be remedied by repeating the research with a larger, double-blind study. Many discoveries began as tiny case studies which subsequently encouraged larger, more comprehensive research. Obviously, the Pfizer funding conflict can be easily remedied in a repeat study--get the funding elsewhere! As far as JAMA's decision to publish, follow-up studies, whatever they show and wherever they appear, will quell the JAMA concerns as well. Lastly, the depression-is-not-an-illness and the anti-medication crowds will likely voice similar concerns no matter how many repeat studies are performed. That is their right. So, I look at this study as an interesting starting point with room to grow. None of the above criticisms are overly concerning to me. They are all fixable with follow-up.
My concern is much simpler and also fixable, but likely the damage has already been done. People have a short attention spans. (If you've read this far, congrats!) If my behavior is any indication, and I think it is, many of us get our news from headlines alone. Who's got time to read beyond that? Following are four of the hundreds of recent, similar headlines I came across:
Viagra for Women's Depression
Viagra may CURE Women Suffering from Depression
Viagra may Revive Women on Depression Drugs