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The New Female Viagra Works Not on the Genitals But on the Brain 2015-06-07
When it comes to addressing sexual dysfunction, men have no shortage of options. For women, alas, there are none. True, there have been a few half-hearted attempts to address the problem: Doctors have occasionally prescribed estrogen pills and creams, and some European countries have briefly experimented with testosterone patches before taking them off the market. But, for the most part, women’s lack of desire—or hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD)—remains an “unmet medical need.” Enter flibanserin, the pill that gives you back your sex drive. Finally, the Female Viagra!
his at least is the argument put forth by Even the Score, a coalition of women’s groups including the National Council of Women’s Organizations and the American Sexual Health Association. (The argument is further summed up in this fairly hilarious parody Viagra ad.) The coalition is working with the drug’s developer, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, to bring this libido-in-a-pill to the masses. Looks like it worked: On Thursday, the FDA advisory committee voted 18-6 to recommend approval of flibanserin. It was a surprising about-face, given that the FDA had previously rejected the drug—twice—for failing to prove that its results justified its risks, which include fainting, low blood pressure, and drowsiness.
Alas, notwithstanding any risks, this is not Viagra for women. Viagra is an impotence aid used to treat erectile dysfunction. It relies on a simple physical mechanism for a simple physical problem: It sends more blood to the penis to keep it erect. Viagra assumes that sexual drive is present, just not physical ability. In fact, neither men nor women have ever had a pill that does what flibanserin purports to do, which is to address something trickier and altogether more vague: the locus of sexual desire.