Effect of buspirone on sexual dysfunction in depressed patients treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors

J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1999 Jun;19(3):268-71. doi: 10.1097/00004714-199906000-00012.


To evaluate the possible influence of buspirone on sexual dysfunction in depressed patients treated with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), we analyzed data from a placebo-controlled trial designed to explore the efficacy of buspirone as add-on treatment for patients not responding to an SSRI alone. At baseline, all patients met the criteria for a major depressive episode according to DSM-IV and had received citalopram or paroxetine during a minimum of 4 weeks without responding to the treatment. Buspirone (flexible dosage, 20-60 mg/day) or placebo was added to the SSRI for 4 weeks; the mean daily dose of buspirone at endpoint was 48.5 mg (SD = 1.0). Sexual dysfunction was evaluated using a structured interview. Before starting medication with buspirone or placebo, 40% (47 of 117) reported at least one kind of sexual dysfunction (decreased libido, ejaculatory dysfunction, orgasmic dysfunction). During the 4 weeks of treatment, approximately 58% of subjects treated with buspirone reported an improvement with respect to sexual function; in the placebo group, the response rate was 30%. The difference between placebo and active drug treatment was more pronounced in women than in men. The response was obvious during the first week, with no further improvement during the course of the study. It is suggested that the effect of buspirone on sexual dysfunction is a result of a reversal of SSRI-induced sexual side effects rather than of an antidepressant effect of the drug.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / therapeutic use
  • Buspirone / therapeutic use*
  • Citalopram / adverse effects
  • Citalopram / therapeutic use
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / complications
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Paroxetine / adverse effects
  • Paroxetine / therapeutic use
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / chemically induced
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / drug therapy*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / psychology


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Citalopram
  • Paroxetine
  • Buspirone