Drug manufacturers at Auxilium Pharmaceuticals in America claim to have developed a new drug that will help cure men of Peyronie's disease, which can cause the male organ to curve dramatically when erect and make sexual activity painful.
Peyronie's disease, which affects 5%-10% of all men, though only noticeably in a small proportion, is often caused by trauma during vigorous sex which leads to the build-up of scar tissue (fibrous plaques) inside the penis. The Xiaflex treatment breaks down this scar tissue and reduces curvature.
Originally developed to treat Dupuytren's contracture, which prevents sufferers from straightening their fingers, Xiaflex involves a course of injections but also surgery which carries the risk of injury, so the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will only allow trained physicians to use it.
Until now the most effective treatment has involved major surgery, which often has unwelcome side-effects such as shortening the penis and causing erectile dysfunction.
Some other treatments for Peyronie's disease, named after François Gigot de la Peyronie, the physician who described it in 1743, included injections, stretching, electrical treatment, vacuum devices and laser surgery. Sufferers find it hard to have intercourse and often suffer from depression.
Cleveland Clinic urologist Ryan Berglund says: "We joke around about it, but to someone who is in a relationship or attempting to be in a relationship who can't perform sexually, this is a completely life-altering problem. You think about it all the time."
Xiaflex will be recommended for men who suffer from at least 30% curvature but each of the eight injections will cost $3,300 in the US. After announcing the success of the trials, shares in Auxilium shot up.
However, medical experts have cautioned that Xiaflex isn't wholly reliable and that it can only reduce bending, not completely straighten out the member. Auxilium's chief medical officer James Tursi advised men to abstain from sex for two weeks after finishing the course. During clinical trials five men out of a total of 1,044 patients suffered penile rupture.