Regulatory and Scientific Issues in Studies to Evaluate Sexual Dysfunction in Antidepressant Drug Trials

Objective: Sexual dysfunction is an important side effect of serotonergic antidepressants, as it often leads to treatment nonadherence. However, sexual dysfunction is often underestimated in clinical trials submitted in support of drug approval. This is because such assessments are based mainly on unsolicited reporting. As a result, the characterization of sexual adverse events has become an important component of many of the development programs for new antidepressants. The purpose of this article is to discuss US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) current thinking on possible approaches to characterizing the effects of drugs on sexual function in depression drug trials.

Participants: FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products, together with the Division of Biometrics I, in particular the authors of this article.

Evidence: The above-referenced FDA divisions conducted a regulatory science forum on measuring sexual dysfunction in depression trials.

Consensus Process: Considering the evidence presented and discussed at the forum, we developed our preliminary regulatory views on the scientific issues with regard to study design, study population, use of available scales, testing strategy, and statistical analysis plans.

Conclusions: Sexual dysfunction associated with antidepressants is an important entity that should be adequately assessed during clinical trials with the use of available instruments and described in product labels. It is important to appreciate the need for a positive control to establish assay sensitivity for any trial evaluating the impact of antidepressant medications on sexual function. Methodological improvement and additional data as well as experience with these approaches will be needed prior to further consideration of a formal regulatory guidance document by the FDA.

J Clin Psychiatry 2015;76(8):1060–1063

https://doi.org/10.4088/JCP.14cs09700