A pink pill for women, billed as an “answer” to Viagra (the blue pill for men), is clearly coarse, but cries of FDA sexism may be unconscionable.
A pharmaceutical company pushing a pill ostensibly for the treatment of a generally accepted but difficult to properly diagnose condition, Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD), insists that it is “the female Viagra,” and that it should be quickly approved by the FDA, just as the erectile dysfunction medication was. Almost wholly not the equivalent of the little blue pill, flibanserin actually represents a new class of drugs. As recently reported by AlJazeeraAmerica.com, it would be the first sexual desire pill on the market.
Flibanserin can’t shake the shorthand “female Viagra,” says the site, noting that this “may not be a bad thing for its manufacturer, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, which bought the pill from another drug company after an FDA panel unanimously rejected it over safety concerns.” With flibanserin as its only drug, the pharmaceutical start-up was able to raise $50 million from investors. They’re gambling on the FDA’s decision, estimating the winnings could be tremendous. If approved, the drug would be the first to tap a market that some say could exceed $2 billion a year.
One of the most vocal supporters has been the executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group the National Consumers League, which has lobbied the FDA to approve the drug. She accuses the FDA of being sexist for twice rejecting the pink pill over concerns about its efficacy and side effects like nausea, low blood pressure, faintness, and even breast cancer.
“I don’t know what else to call that except for gender bias,” she told the news site. One might suggest: “test results of flibanserin indicating greater safety and efficacy concerns than sildenafil citrate,” for example.
AlJazeeraAmerica.com also notes that “many who work in the field of sexual health say that [the proponents’] is an unfair charge. Equality for women… doesn’t mean the FDA should approve a drug that could possibly do more harm than good.”
“You have to be concerned it is not politicized,” said a flibanserin critic. “Just to say, ‘Men have Viagra and I want a pill, too,’ that’s not really the answer. So men have Viagra, fine. What can we do to help women?”
Dr. Leonore Tiefer, associate professor of psychiatry at New York University, says women have been conned by the women’s rights case for the little pink pill, according to the report. She believes the pink pill may get approved not based on science but rather a brilliant marketing campaign by the drug’s makers. A coalition of women and consumer groups supported by Sprout, Inc. formed the online campaign Even the Score, which frames the approval in feminist terms.
“I will say they’re incompetent, I will say they’re idiots, I will say they’re not doing their jobs, when it’s patently obvious that there is a way to fix something or treat something and a federal agency doesn’t do the job that it’s set up to do,” said the National Consumers League chief, a member of Even the Score. “It’s good advocacy and it needed to be done,” she added.
It “needed to be done” so that Sprout avoids losing $50 million of investors’ money. Flibanserin is their one and only drug! Could potentially making billions–as opposed to losing everything–be incentive enough even to create a “women’s coalition” with phony motives to flood government advisory panel hearings? Somehow, the FDA advisory panel that recommended the drug’s approval couldn’t imagine it.
UPDATE: On August 18, 2015, the FDA did approve flibanserin for public consumption. It is now marketed under the brand name “Addyi.”