The latest news about a new drug recently approved in the USA to help women and their sexual desire.
Since the availability of Viagra for men more than 10 years ago, many women have been hoping for a treatment for their sexual needs. On August 18th 2015 the FDA (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) approved ‘Addyi’ (flibanserin) to treat ‘acquired, generalised hypoactive sexual desire disorder’ (HSDD) in premenopausal women.
The quest for the approval of flibanserin took about five years, 2 rejected FDA applications, a change of drug company ownership and the inception of an online action group called ‘Even the Score’ (‘Women’s Sexual Health Equity’). The process became heavily politicised, with ‘Even the Score’ declaring that, from a feminist perspective, it is unfair that men have several dozen medications to help their sexual problems and women have none.
Dr Leonore Tiefer, associate professor of psychiatry at New York University has been a vocal critic of the medicalisation of women’s sexual concerns for years. I remember her speaking about this very topic at the World Association of Sexology Congress in Montreal in 2005. Dr Tiefer asserts that ‘womens’ sexual issues shouldn’t be treated with a daily dose of medication that changes the chemistry of the brain, but should be prevented through sexual education and relationships that are equal’. I believe that Dr Tiefer’s view is important. Drugs need to be approved on the basis of safety and need and not due to the pressure of public relations activities driven by the very drug companies who are seeking to profit from drug sales.
Flibanserin was developed as an antidepressant but never used for this purpose. It’s action is within the brain upon the neurotransmitters and needs to be taken daily. It can take up to several months before an improvement of sexual desire is noticed – and the improvement has been described as ‘less than one extra satisfying sexual experience per month’. Flibanserin is therefore NOT a ‘Pink Viagra’. Viagra is a drug that is taken only when a man wants to improve the quality of his erection. A man needs to have a significant desire for sex for Viagra to be able to boost his ‘hydraulics’!
Why was there such a long drawn out process to have this drug approved?
Flibanserin has significant side effects: dizziness, sleepiness, nausea and fatigue. More concerning is the potential for a woman to faint and lose consciousness due to a sudden drop in blood pressure. This can happen when flibanserin is taken with alcohol or with medications that use the same processing pathways in the liver. There is also no data available about possible long term side effects. The FDA has instructed Sprout Pharmaceuticals Inc. to conduct more comprehensive tests on flibanserin (Addyi) as a condition of it’s approval for use in the USA.
Women who have a concern about loss of libido, no desire for sex or a lower sexual desire than their partner need not despair that this medication is not available in Australia. Even if it were available, having done my research, I would be prescribing it in a very limited way. Sexual desire (or ‘libido’) is dependent on many factors. The person needs to address any significant medical conditions, mental health issues and relationship concerns.
At least a quarter of the people who consult me have sexual desire issues. I am well placed with my knowledge and experience to help you and your partner find solutions to these and any other sexual or relationship concerns. Please feel welcome to phone for an appointment with me. It is my pleasure to help couples experience joy and fulfilment in their intimate relationships.