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Q. A friend of mine says she's taking a pill called Avlimil that is like Viagra for women. Do these pills really work, and are they safe?
A. Avlimil is a nonhormonal herbal supplement that is marketed to women with decreased sex drive. Although the makers of Avlimil cite a study that says the pills boost sexual function, many doctors are dubious of this claim. "There are no independent data available to say these pills work," says Alan Altman, MD, assistant clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, in Boston. "It's buyer beware." Avlimil and other over-the-counter products like it, such as Avenavin, are not regulated by the federal government, which means they are not required to be tested for safety or efficacy.
Furthermore, Dr. Altman warns that just because pills are natural doesn't mean that they are without potential side effects. Some patients taking herbal supplements experience headaches and gastrointestinal problems.
Decreased sex drive could be the result of stress, problems in your relationship, medications such as antidepressants or birth-control pills, or low testosterone levels. If you're struggling with low libido, he suggests finding a physician or psychologist who specializes in female sexual dysfunction. To find a female sexual-dysfunction specialist in your area, consult your primary-care doctor or your gynecologist.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, April 2004