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“Female Viagra” Could Soon Be a Reality

posted: 06/03/15
by: Courtney Reimer
Woman's hands holding pink pills
iStock

For nearly two decades, men of a certain age have been able to pop a pill to help improve their sex lives -- and for just as long, women have been waiting for their answer to Viagra. Could such a thing come to be? A current campaign called Even The Score is surely working hard to make that happen.

First things first: the drug known as "female viagra" already exists. It's called flibanserin, and has twice already been rejected by the Food and Drug Administration on the grounds that the side effects such as sleepiness, dizziness, nausea (side effects, by the way, that are often cited in conjunction with Viagra, too) outweigh the possible benefits of the drug.

How flibanserin works, according to a Washington Post article, is that it treats hypoactive sex drive disorder by targeting chemicals in the brains of women who say they do love their partner, but have lost their desire for sex "due to a fluke of brain chemistry." (This makes "female viagra" different from its male counterpart, which primarily works by increasing blood flow to the sex organs.)

Women who have tested flibanserin feel strongly that the benefits are certainly worth it. "At the end of a long day, no matter how tired I was, I wanted to initiate and it was not work to do that," Amanda Parrish, a tester of the drug, told NBC News. Her husband appreciated the effects, too, saying "she was flirty again," engaging not just in sex but also gestures like "leaving notes on my bathroom mirror in the morning."

Along those same lines, Dr. Irwin Goldstein, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego, points out the issue goes beyond the actual act of sex. He told The New York Times that their usual patient is "someone who is fearful of losing the relationship they have been in for years." And one of his patients said her lack of desire "tends to cloud my thoughts of everything related to my husband" and that "replacing the dread I have for intimacy with desire would be life-changing."

Even the Score -- their name refers to the number of male sex drugs (26) versus women's (0) -- is positioning the fight to get flibanserin into the hands of women suffering from flagging libido as a gender equality issue, telling The New York Times that "should be the standard when it comes to access to treatments for sexual dysfunction."

But more than a few in the field of pharmaceutical studies aren't convinced, pointing out that many of the folks involved with the Even The Score campaign are employed by Sprout, which manufactures flibanserin. In an op-ed for U.S. News and World Report, Rebecca Holliman, who has studied the marketing practices of pharmaceutical companies, writes: "On closer inspection, this so-called feminist movement seems like a veneer over an unusually aggressive public relations campaign by Sprout to pressure the FDA to approve its drug."

One thing most people seem to agree on, though, is that there is a need for a drug to address the issue of decreased libido -- it's just up for debate whether flibanserin is that drug.