Eds.: SUBS 7th graf, ``Among women ... '' to CLARIFY that 48 percent of Serzone-treated group were satisfied with their sexual functioning.

NEW YORK (AP) _ A new antidepressant shows a lower rate of sex-related side effects than a member of a widely prescribed class of depression-fighting drugs, researchers said Wednesday.

The new studies were paid for by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., which makes the antidepressant called Serzone and has marketed it in the United States since 1995.

The researchers said the funding did not affect their results, which showed that people who took Serzone had lower rates of sexual dissatisfaction than those who took Zoloft. Zoloft is one of a group of antidepressants called SSRIs. Other SSRIs include Paxil and Prozac.

Both studies were presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

In one study, Dr. Alan Feiger of the Feiger PsychMed Center in Wheat Ridge, Colo., reported on a study of patients treated with Serzone or Zoloft.

Twenty-seven men in each category responded to questions about sexual function and satisfaction. Eighty-nine percent of Serzone-treated men said they were at least moderately satisfied with their sexual functioning, vs. 50 percent of the Zoloft-treated men. Nineteen percent of Serzone-treated men said they'd had difficulty with ejaculation in the previous week, vs. 67 percent of Zoloft-treated men.

Among women, with 23 patients in each group, 65 percent of those treated with Serzone said they were moderately to highly satisfied with their ability to have orgasms, vs. 44 percent in the other group. And 48 percent of the Serzone-treated group said they were highly or completely satisfied with their sexual functioning, vs. 18 percent in the other group.

Dr. Joseph Feczko, vice president and medical director of the U.S. Pharmaceutical Group at Pfizer Inc., maker of Zoloft, said he believed the results exaggerate the differences because they are based on small groups of patients.

He also said the average Zoloft dose in the study was higher than what doctors would typically use, and that would be expected to raise the chance of side effects.

Pfeiger said differences in sexual functioning were apparent even early in the study, when relatively low doses of both drugs were used before they were increased.

He also said that while the questions about sexual problems were asked of only the sexually active patients, an analysis of all 143 patients in the study found that those on Zoloft did not recover sexual interest lost in depression, while those on Serzone showed a return to normal levels.

Pfeiger said the two drugs had similar effectiveness against depression, but Feczko said the study could not adequately address that question. Pfeieger said other studies show the two drugs are equally effective.

In the other study, Dr. James Ferguson of the University of Utah School of Medicine reported that patients with sexual impairment attributed to Zoloft showed less impairment when switched to Serzone than if re-treated with Zoloft.

Feczko said the same study showed that about 30 percent of the patients no longer had impairment when re-treated with Zoloft. While results also indicated that Serzone worked as well on depression as Zoloft, Feczko and Ferguson agreed the study could not definitively address that issue.