By Lona O'Connor
Please don’t call Stanley Althof a sexologist, even though he is the recipient of a lifetime achievement award named for Masters and Johnson, two of the most famous names in sex research.
“I’m a psychologist specializing in sexual medicine,” he says.
He is sitting on a loveseat in his West Palm Beach office, under a reproduction of The Kiss, a famous Gustav Klimt painting of lovers embracing.
Aside from that one genteel reference to sex, you would be hard-pressed to know that this is the office where Althof helps individuals and couples untangle the most intimate aspects of their lives.
Althof, who lives in Lantana with his wife, Marcie, has long been involved in the process of selecting human subjects for drug trials, including those to correct erectile dysfunction.
At the moment, he is seeking male subjects for the medical trial of a new drug for premature ejaculation. Premature ejaculation can be episodic or fleeting; each man’s physiology and temperament are different. Or it can continue a long time, sometimes triggered by disease or surgery.
The men he seeks for the drug trial must be between the ages of 18 and 60, healthy and in a relationship lasting six months or longer. They cannot have problems with substance or alcohol abuse and they must have suffered from premature ejaculation for a long period of time.
Althof’s practice has focused on all aspects of sexual function, as well as counseling transgender surgery candidates. He has also worked with medical professionals accused of sexual misconduct, and he ran the sexual health center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Considered a “key opinion leader” in the field, he has written more than 150 medical articles and developed questionnaires for subjects of drug efficacy trials for Viagra and Cialis.
The new drug, called IX-01, is being developed by Althof’s longtime associate Ian Osterloh, one of the researchers who identified the active ingredient of Viagra for erectile dysfunction.
Althof assisted Osterloh in the selection of test subjects for Viagra, and when Osterloh later formed his own company and bought the rights to develop IX-01 to treat premature ejaculation, Althof was a natural choice to help find test subjects. He and others are collecting about 200 subjects nationwide for the trial.
IX-01, now in its second round of human trials, decreases the amount of oxytocin in the body. In studies on mice, less oxytocin lengthens the time before ejaculation.
Other researchers tried using a similar method, but with no success. “They were on the right track with the wrong drug,” Althof said, “The drug didn’t penetrate the blood-brain barrier. This one does.”
So far, IX-01 has helped test subjects to delay ejaculation three to four times longer, with few side effects. The federal Food and Drug Administration has given the go-ahead for Osterloh’s company to increase the dosage in the second round of tests.
Althof is not surprised that he has gotten calls from women.
“Women are often frustrated or angry that their partner doesn’t do anything,” he said. “I’ve already had two or three calls from women asking about the study.”
After phase 2 of the study is done, a third trial will take place with many more subjects. Then the researchers must present their data to the FDA for consideration. If all goes well, the drug could be on the market in about two years.
At the moment, IX-01 is the only product being developed by Osterloh’s company, Ixchelsis.
“There’s a large market for this,” Althof said. “You’re talking millions in research.”
But not millions for Althof.
“I get paid a consulting fee, that’s it,” he said. “If the drug works, I don’t get any money.”
A love story at home
Aside from his work in sex therapy, Althof has a love story of his own.
Back in the 1960s, Althof’s girlfriend was Marcie Sothern. Their families lived on the same block in Manhattan. But their paths diverged when Althof went to Stuyvesant High School and Marcie attended the High School of Performing Arts.
They married other people, had families and lost touch for decades. Then, a few years ago, Althof was introduced to the son of the ex-wife of an old friend. The man was new to Cleveland, so Althof invited him to dinner. As they talked, the man mentioned that he worked for Weight Watchers.
“Oh,” said Althof, “then you must know Marcie Sothern, Carole’s daughter. I dated her in high school.”
“You dated Carole’s daughter?” the man stammered. “She’s my boss!”
Carole Sothern founded Weight Watchers’ Palm Beach County franchise and her daughter — married name Marcie Sothern Gorman — later took over as the franchise CEO.
Both Gorman and Althof were single again and this time they married. That was 15 years ago.
“And that was without the internet,” Althof said with a smile.
He moved his practice from Cleveland to accommodate his wife’s many connections here. While Gorman was still a teen, her family had moved to Hollywood, and she attended South Broward High School and the University of Florida.
After moving on from her duties at Weight Watchers, she returned to her high school specialty, theater, becoming the producer of numerous musicals at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.
It looks like a match that was meant to be.
“Marcie in her own right and I in my own right were successful,” Althof said. “Our families knew each other. But it’s all about love.”
For more information about the drug trial for IX-01, contact Stanley Althof at email@example.com or phone his office at 822-5454.
Lona O’Connor has a lifelong interest in health and healthy living. Send column ideas to Lona13@bellsouth.net.