Oz leads world on testosterone for women’s libido

Vivienne Wynter

A small pharmaceutical company in Perth is leading the world with production of a testosterone cream for postmenopausal women who have low libido.

In 2020, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) registered AndroFeme 1 cream for postmenopausal Australian women experiencing low sexual desire associated with personal distress.

Now Lawley Pharmaceuticals, the company producing AndroFeme 1, has applied to licence the cream to the UK and New Zealand.

AndroFeme 1 was licenced in South Africa in 2023 and will go on sale in there soon.

AndroFeme was developed in Australia and soon will be exported around the world

Plans are underway to supply the testosterone cream to women in America and Canada if UK licencing is successful.

Not just a male hormone

Testosterone is the primary hormone for sexual desire in both sexes.

Commonly considered a male hormone, women also produce testosterone in much smaller amounts.

Clinical studies have shown testosterone therapy for postmenopausal women is beneficial for sexual function, desire, arousal, orgasmic function, pleasure and sexual responsiveness.

Testosterone is the hormone for sexual desire in men and women

Lawley’s Medical Director, Michael Buckley, said historically, pharmaceutical companies in other countries had either failed to register a testosterone therapy for women due to a lack of data or to keep it on the market due to restrictive prescribing rules.

Michael Buckely. PHOTO: supplied by Lawley Pharmacueticals

‘Australia has been leading this area for decades,’ said Mr Buckley.

‘Women’s health has been marginalised for a long time and some of that is discriminatory,’ he said.

‘Now there’s a revolution going on with menopause treatment.’

Pioneering research

Mr Buckley said Professor Susan Davis AO had pioneered research on testosterone therapy for women.

Professor Davis is Head of Monash University’s Women’s Health Research Program where she instigated research into sex hormone action, deficiency and replacement in women.

‘I have led large national and international clinical trials that have shown testosterone to be effective for postmenopausal women with low libido and that it could be given safely,’ Professor Davis wrote on the National Health and Medical Research Council website.

Professor Susan Davis is pioneering research . PHOTO: from Lawley Pharmacueticals

Now Professor Davis is researching whether testosterone insufficiency plays a role in cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders and dementia in women aged over 65 years.

‘In women, they all occur at a life stage when testosterone levels are at their lowest,’ Professor Davis said.

‘It is estimated that 2.9 million Australian women suffer these conditions.

‘This (research) will determine whether testosterone therapy… has the potential and feasibility to reduce premature morbidity and mortality in women.’

GP education needed

Post-menopausal women in Australia can ask their doctor to prescribe AndroFeme 1, although many GPs are not educated about testosterone for women or are reluctant to prescribe it.

Mr Buckley said it was understandable that not all GPs wanted to specialise in hormone treatment.

‘Fifty per cent of population go through menopause but not all GPs are trained in hormone management,’ he said.

Lawley Pharmaceuticals is addressing this with a doctor education program rolling out in Australia in the coming years.

Testosterone therapy on the rise

Testosterone use by women has risen rapidly in the UK and Mr Buckley believes the same trend will occur in Australia and around the world.

‘Before Viagra became available in 1998, men were reticent to put their hands up and tell their doctor about erectile dysfunction.

‘When Viagra was discovered, men came out of woodwork to ask for it.’

He said women’s take up rates of hormone therapies was set back by misreporting of a Women’s Health Initiative study in 2002 which overstated the risk of breast cancer from hormone treatment.

‘The majority of women stopped using oestrogen-based treatment and at the time, the use of testosterone was conditional on using oestrogen.

‘It has taken 20 years for the pendulum to swing back to using hormone therapy,’ Mr Buckley said.

ABC TV show Catalyst raised awareness

ABC TV science reporter Jonica Newby raised awareness of testosterone therapy in 2015 when she made herself a guinea pig for testosterone treatment for low libido (because none of the women she contacted would speak publicly) for a story on the Catalyst program.

Jonica Newby. PHOTO: sourced from jonicanewby.com.au

Ms Newby reported positive results.

‘Did it work? Answer – yes. Amazingly. It brought back the sensitivity and responsiveness I had lost. And that is a really big deal for me. So I have decided I am staying with it for now,’ wrote Ms Newby in Mamamia.

How it started

Mr Buckley, a pharmacist, said Australia was punching above its weight in the area of testosterone therapy for postmenopausal women.

He said it was rewarding seeing patients’ lives transform within months of receiving the right hormones.

‘Lawley literally started out of a broom cupboard of my retail pharmacy in my early 30s.

‘The hormone idea walked in the door courtesy of a lady who had been to the US on holidays and heard a doctor speak about a natural progesterone cream.

‘In those days, testosterone was only available to men and a very forward thinking gynaecologist asked me to make a testosterone cream for women.

‘I had no idea it would take over two decades to make some headway getting a licenced testosterone therapy for women.’

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