Rather than treat the effects of children being sexually abused, researchers in Sweden think the effects of Degarelix to lower testosterone and sex drive may reduce the urges of pedophiles and prevent abuse in the first place. Photo by cozyta/Shutterstock
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, May 10 (UPI) -- Researchers in Sweden think treating men who report pedophilic urges with a prostate cancer drug could help prevent children from being abused.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden plan to start a clinical trial, Pedophilia at Risk-Investigations of Treatment or Biomarkers, or Priotab, treating men with pedophilic disorder with Degarelix, a prostate cancer drug known decrease sex drive in patients because of its effects on testosterone.
The drug is said to have an effect on sex drive within days of starting to take it, and researchers think what is considered a negative side effect for some patients may be effective with those who could benefit from the effect.
The concept is considered controversial for reasons that range from discomfort with the topic to the potential for knowing people have abusive urges but are being treated rather than restrained, researchers said, and raises some ethical questions.
"It's important we have evidence-based treatment," Dr. Christoffer Rahm, who is leading the study at the Karolinska Institute, told Sky News. "We need to shift the focus away from what to do when the damage is already done on to preventing the sexual abuse happening in the first place."
The researchers have been working to crowdsource Priotab, which will eventually enroll 120 men who have reported pedophilic impulses and are seeking help. Half the participants will be given an injection of Degarelix, and the other half a placebo, with follow-ups for at least one year during the study.
A single injection of the drug is expected to lower testosterone and sex drive within two to four days and last up to four months. The researchers plan to follow up with participants long-term to determine the drug's effects, as well as biological markers for risk including neuropsychological tests, blood tests and brain imaging.
The funding campaign has been slow to attract support -- the researchers had collected just five percent of the $55,000 they sought to raise as of May 7 -- Rahm said he is starting the study anyway, since it has received government approval, and extended the funding deadline by two months.
Rahm told Science a better public relations campaign may have helped, but after a study on the effects of LSD on the brain brought in more than double its funding goal he's also aware that doing anything involving pedophiles, including trying to prevent them from abusing children, is a tough sell.