The Role of Placebo in the Treatment of Female Sexual Dysfunction

Placebo responses have been large across a number of clinical trials for treatment of women’s sexual dysfunction. Studying placebo responses may elucidate predictors of symptom reduction and responsiveness to intervention. In an effort to determine the correlates of placebo response in participants enrolled in a clinical trial for female sexual dysfunction, we (Bradford & Meston, 2011) analyzed data from women with sexual arousal and orgasmic dysfunction who were randomized to receive 8 weeks of placebo treatment within a larger randomized controlled trial. We tested whether age, length of relationship, psychological symptoms, and scores on self-report measures predicted change in sexual function with placebo treatment. We found a significant improvement in sexual function scores after 8 weeks of treatment with placebo. We also found that age and length of relationship predicted the magnitude of change in sexual function across treatment. Our findings suggest that “placebo effects” may represent underlying factors that influence the way in which women respond to the process of treatment.

Recommended papers:

Bradford, A., & Meston, C. M. (2011). Behavior and symptom change among women treated with placebo for sexual dysfunction. The Journal of Sexual Medicine8(1), 191-201. (PDF 105 KB) 

Bradford, A., & Meston, C. M. (2009). Placebo response in the treatment of women’s sexual dysfunctions: A review and commentary. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy35(3), 164-181. PDF (92 KB)

Bradford, A., & Meston, C. (2007). Correlates of placebo response in the treatment of sexual dysfunction in women: a preliminary report. The Journal of Sexual Medicine4(5), 1345-1351. PDF (239 KB)