Men’s Health: Nasal spray boosts sexual arousal

Experimental drug is a possible alternative to pill-based treatments for impotence

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Men who have difficulty getting an erection may soon be able to inhale their way to a better sex life thanks to an experimental drug that’s delivered in the form of a nasal spray.

The drug, called bremelanotide, increases arousal by acting on the nervous system. In contrast, Viagra and similar pills for impotence act on blood vessels in the penis.

Dr. Jed Kaminetsky, a clinical assistant professor of urology at New York University, says it’s good to have alternatives to Viagra-type drugs because some men don’t respond to them, while others can’t take them because of side-effects or conflicts with other medication. “It’s exciting that there’s a new drug with a different mechanism of action.”

Kaminetsky and his colleagues studied 726 men who had erection problems for an average of six years, but who did not have diabetes, a condition that can make treatment of impotence more difficult.

The men were randomly assigned to several different doses of bremelanotide or to inactive placebo pills, and were asked to attempt intercourse at least twice a week for the first month. After 12 weeks, the men had improved two to eight points on a 30-point scale that measures “erectile function,” with the higher doses generally leading to greater improvement.

The most common side-effect was mild nausea, which affected up to one-quarter of men in the higher-dose groups. More than half the men in the highest-dose group stopped using the medication.

Kaminetsky says absorption of the drug varies from person to person, so that men would likely start out with a lower dose and work their way up. “There is a place that you’re going to get the efficacy and you’re not going to have the side-effects.” And there is the possibility that bremelanotide could be used in conjunction with pill treatments.

The drug is also being tested for its potential to boost sexual arousal in women.