The Female Viagra: Hype or Real?

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The Female Viagra: Hype or Real? 3.00/5 (60.00%) 3 votes

Ever since the emergence of Viagra, the super-hit male sexual enhancement drug, pharmaceutical companies have been trying to replicate the same magic with a female equivalent, without much success. Only recently has one such prescription drug, developed by the US Company Sprout Pharmaceuticals, managed to finally get FDA approval after much debate and deliberation and earlier rejections.

What is this drug?

The drug is flibanserin (generic name) and it comes in the form of a daily pill, with the brand name Addyi. It is intended to treat premenopausal women suffering from a lack of sexual desire that is not due to an underlying medical or psychiatric condition, to the extent of causing extreme emotional distress.

The drug carries a strong and loud warning about the risk of fainting due to low blood pressure if combined with alcohol or certain other drugs, including antifungal medications. Because of its non-sexy side effects, only medical practitioners certified to prescribe it may do so. The same holds true for pharmacies selling this drug.

How is the libido pill supposed to work?

Contrary to the male pill Viagra, which directly acts on the vascular system in the genital region by increasing blood flow to the penis, Addyi ingredient flibanserin acts on neurotransmitters in the brain – particularly those associated with mood and appetite, just the way antidepressants do. It does not boost blood flow to the genitals.

No wonder then that this drug was initially being investigated for treating depression, but was later reworked as a libido drug. It supposedly increases the levels of dopamine, a brain chemical linked with appetite, at the same time reducing the levels of serotonin, a brain chemical linked with the feeling of feeling full after a meal.

And unlike Viagra, it is not meant to be taken just before sex, but on a daily basis. In fact, it may take weeks for it to show any positive results.  Furthermore, women are advised to stop taking the pill after a period of 8 weeks if it doesn’t show any significant results.

To what extent does this female Viagra work?

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According to the trials conducted by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, women reported a “slight” increase in sexually satisfying events per month, with a “slight” increase in desire and a “slight” decrease in stress. FDA researchers describe these Addyi effects as “small”, whereas experts describe them as “modest” at best. These positive results do not seem to outweigh the risky side effects of the pill.

The pharmaceutical company anticipates that the pill to be effective in only about 10% of the women suffering from low libido

So, is it really a libido-boosting pill in the true sense?

Not really. Reason one:

The problem of low libido among women is rather complicated unlike in men, whose main libido-related problem (erectile dysfunction) is more or less physical in nature, a medical condition involving impaired blood flow to the penis.

Among women, on the other hand, not just the physiological but also many non-physical and non-medical factors can affect the sexual desire, such as relationship problems, job stress, fatigue from taking care of the children, masculine go-getter nature, sexual dissatisfaction with the partner, poor body image, birth control pills, and many more.

Moreover, sexual desire in men is more of spontaneous type, whereas in women it is more of responsive type. So, a lack of proper sexual stimulus could also cause low libido among women.   

Data indicates that as many as 40% of premenopausal women show a lack of sex drive, a figure much higher than in young men.  So much so that many experts feel that low sex drive among women may not even be considered a medical condition, unless it is causing intense emotional distress to the person concerned.

Reason two: Critics strongly feel that in the case of FDA approval of Addyi, some factors other than the results of scientific studies played a role. And one such factor was the intense lobbying carried out by Sprout-funded supporters, including some politicians and women’s groups, and by the PR firm hired by the Company.

Our Take

Low sex drive in women is a multifaceted and complex issue. Hence, before resorting to drugs for treating weak libido it is advisable to address all the other related issues first. And use libido enhancement drugs only as a last resort, more so because their benefits are only marginal but risks, huge.

Image Credit: blogs-images.forbes.com

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