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Sex Med Rev. 2018 Jul;6(3):367-383. doi: 10.1016/j.sxmr.2017.11.008. Epub 2018 Jan 19.

Assessment of Sexual Desire for Clinical Trials of Women With Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder: Measures, Desire-Related Behavior, and Assessment of Clinical Significance.

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Pykonsult LLC, New Fairfield, CT, USA. Electronic address:
Departments of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, and of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA.



The Female Sexual Function Index-desire subscale is the standard measure for clinical trials of hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), but lacks items assessing sexually related behaviors and attitudes toward partner. Counting satisfying sexual events is criticized, but sexual behavior remains important. Mean treatment differences cannot define clinical significance; responder and remitter analyses help. We reviewed measures on sexual desire and sexual behavior relevant to HSDD, and how to assess clinical significance.


We conducted a literature review of measures of sexual desire comparing expert-proposed criteria for dysfunctional desire, expert-developed scales, and scales from patient input. Commonly recognized symptoms of HSDD were identified. Results of HSDD trials and scale validation studies were evaluated to extract responder and remitter values. The utility of distribution-based measures of responders and remitters was assessed.


Symptom relevance was evaluated as the proportion of symptom sets that included the item; responder and remitter cut points were determined by distribution-based methods.


12 Validated rating scales, 5 scales primarily derived from expert recommendations and 7 scales initially from patient input, and 5 sets of diagnostic criteria for conditions like HSDD were compared. Content varied highly between scales despite compliance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommendations for patient-reported outcomes. This disunity favors an expert-recommended scale such as the Elements of Desire Questionnaire with each of the common items, plus a measure of frequency of sexual activity, eg, item in the Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System. Registrational drug trials, but not psychological treatment trials, usually give responder/remitter analyses, using dichotomized global impressions or anchor-based definitions. Distribution-based methods are more uniformly applicable to define responder and remitter status.


The Female Sexual Function Index-desire subscale measures the most relevant element of sexual desire, but it would be meaningful to include 4 or 5 more sexual symptoms as end points: sexual thoughts/fantasies, frequency of sexual activity, receptivity, initiations, and possibly avoidance of sexual situations. The Elements of Desire Questionnaire and a measure of sexual frequency may suffice. Responder and remitter analyses show the clinical relevance of a treatment and enable comparisons across trials. Pyke RE, Clayton AH. Assessment of Sexual Desire for Clinical Trials of Women With Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder: Measures, Desire-Related Behavior, and Assessment of Clinical Significance. Sex Med Rev 2018;6:367-383.


EDQ; FSFI-desire; PROMIS sexual activity scale; Remitter definition; Responder definition; SIDI-F

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