The use of dehydroepiandrosterone in the treatment of hypoactive sexual desire disorder: a report of gender differences

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013 Aug;23(8):910-8. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2012.09.004. Epub 2012 Oct 18.


Data regarding the efficacy of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in the treatment of hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) are scarce and inconsistent. We aimed to determine possible gender differences in the efficacy of DHEA as a treatment for HDSS. Postmenopausal women (n=27), and men (n=21) with HSDD, were randomized to receive either DHEA 100 mg daily or placebo for 6 weeks in a controlled, double blind study. Primary outcome measures were sexual function questionnaires. Hormone serum levels of DHEAS, total and bioavailable testosterone, estradiol, and urine levels of DHEA and androsterone were also measured. Participants on active treatment showed a significant increase in circulating serum levels of DHEAS, while bioavailable testosterone levels increased in women only. In women only, significant interaction effects were observed for sexual arousal (p<0.05), satisfaction (p<0.05), and cognition (trend; p=0.06). For arousal, a significant improvement was observed for the DHEA treated group at 6 weeks (p=0.001). Significant correlations were observed between bioavailable T and sexual cognitions, arousal and orgasm, while DHEAS was correlated with satisfaction. In the men, significant correlations were observed between testosterone and arousal (r=.45), sexual drive (r=.50) and orgasm (r=.55). In women with HSDD, DHEA treatment had a significant beneficial effect on arousal, whereas no efficacy was demonstrated in men, indicating a possible gender difference. This improvement seems to be mediated via DHEA's metabolism to testosterone. Our positive results suggest that the neurosteroid DHEA may be effective as a treatment for women with HSDD if administered at a dose of at least 100 mg per day.

Trial registration: NCT00916396.

Keywords: Arousal; Dehyroepiandrosterone; Gender; Hypoactive sexual desire disorder; Neurosteroids; Testosterone.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Androsterone / urine
  • Biotransformation
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / adverse effects
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / pharmacokinetics
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / therapeutic use*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / urine
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / blood
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Resistance
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / adverse effects
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / urine
  • Postmenopause
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / blood
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / drug therapy*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / metabolism
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / urine
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Testosterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Estradiol
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Androsterone

Associated data