Women suffering from sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressants have experienced a decrease in adverse effects by taking Pfizer’s blockbuster treatment for erectile dysfunction Viagra, according to new data.

A 98-patient study, the data from which has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, noted that antidepressant treatment-associated sexual dysfunction occurs in 30% to 70% of people treated for major depression. No randomised controlled trial has demonstrated an effective treatment for women experiencing these problems but the Prizer-sponsored study shows that 28% of women taking Viagra showed no improvement, as opposed to 73% on placebo.

The authors noted that women treated with Viagra were significantly more likely to reach orgasm than those in the placebo group, but no significant improvements were noted in terms of desire or lubrication. The most common side effect was headache, reported by 43% of the women on Viagra and 27% of those on placebo. Transient vision disturbances were reported by 14% of those on Viagra compared to 2% in the control group.

What Pfizer intends to do with the data is unclear as the firm has no plans at the moment to get approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for Viagra to treat female sexual dysfunction. In 2004, the firm abandoned a bid to file for an additional indication after clinical trials involving around 3,000 women failed to throw up a conclusive result.

At the time, Pfizer said that diagnosing female sexual arousal disorder “involves assessing physical, emotional and relationship factors, and these complex and interdependent factors make measuring a medicine’s effect very difficult".