Drug to treat premature ejaculation increases sexual stamina threefold

A new drug to treat premature ejaculation can increase men's sexual stamina more than threefold, its makers said yesterday.

Fresh hope to sufferers of the condition was offered by Johnson & Johnson, which has been conducting trials on men with the disorder and monitoring their partners' experience.

The US firm hopes that the drug will do for the sexually premature what Viagra did for the sexually dysfunctional, becoming a multibillion-dollar-selling product along the way.

However, European men may have to wait longer than their American counterparts before they can be prescribed the drug through a GP.

Johnson & Johnson said yesterday that men who suffer from premature ejaculation lasted three to four times longer in the sexual act when using the new drug, dapoxetine. The data - from late-stage clinical trials on 2,600 men - was released at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association yesterday.

The company has already filed with regulators in the US to get permission to sell the drug to American patients, but a spokesman said it does not know when European regulators will be asked.

The men in the trial were all in monogamous sexual relationships. Before taking the drug, they typically lasted less than a minute in the sexual act. On the highest dose of the drug, patients lasted around 3 minutes 20 seconds, the company reported.

Just over half of the men who took the drug described the control they had over their ejaculation as "fair" to "very good", compared to about 3% of those who did not take the treatment. The number of men describing the sexual satisfaction as "good" to "very good" almost doubled to 46.5%. Their sexual partners reported a similar experience.

Dapoxetine was originally tested as an antidepressant, and it is in the same class of drugs as Prozac and Seroxat, which affect the level of the "happy" substance serotonin in the brain. It was not suitable for the treatment of depression because it quickly leaves the body.

Other drugs in the same class are sometimes used to treat the condition, as depressed patients have reported increased sexual stamina as a side effect.

The antidepressants have more controversial side effects such as withdrawal symptoms. Jon Pryor, who led Johnson & Johnson's trial, said dapoxetine had few side effects in the trials. "It can be taken on demand, one to three hours before intercourse, and the reason its side effects are so low is probably because it clears out of the system quickly," he said.

Johnson & Johnson is best known for its consumer products and baby range, but it has built up a substantial pharmaceuticals business in recent years.

It now is the third largest drug company in the US market, second to the UK's GlaxoSmithKline, with its biggest drugs anaemia treatment Procrit, schizophrenia treatment Risperdal and arthritis drug Remicade.

British firm Plethora Solutions recently raised £10m from investors to develop a treatment for premature ejaculation, which is effectively an anaesthetic spray. This is in mid-stage clinical trials.