01 May 2020
London: Researchers now claim that the risk of some men sexually abusing children can be reduced by a drug that lowers testosterone levels.
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet and Gothenburg University in Sweden have now evaluated the effect of a drug called degarelix, which is approved for the treatment of prostate cancer.
The drug acts by switching off the production of testosterone, reducing within a matter of hours the levels of the hormone in the body, and is administered by injection every three months.
The double-blinded study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, included 52 men with the pedophilic disorder in Sweden, who were randomly assigned to a degarelix or a placebo group.
Treatment with degarelix was shown to dampen two critical risk factors for committing abuse: high sexual desire and sexual attraction to children. The effects were noticeable within two weeks.
"It's important to be able to offer a relatively fast-acting treatment, and the patients' own experiences of the drug were overall positive," says study leader Christoffer Rahm from the Karolinska Institutet.
Above all, the men described positive effects on their sexuality. Many reported that they felt an inner calm, that thoughts of sex were no longer dominant and that they lost their sexual interest in children.
A majority wanted to continue on the drug after the study was over.
All participation was voluntary and the men were recruited via Preventell, a national helpline initiated by ANOVA, andrology, sexual medicine and trans medicine clinic at Karolinska University Hospital.
The helpline was set up to prevent sexual abuse and violence by fast-tracking people with dangerous or undesired sexuality into specialised treatment.
While some of the participants in the degarelix group developed hot flashes and reactions at the injection site, conclusions about any mental side-effects were hard to draw since many of the participants were already in a depressive state even before the study started.
"This study is an important step towards an evidence-based treatment for the pedophilic disorder. We're now planning a new study to assay the longer-term effects of the drug and to compare them with psychotherapy," Rahm said.