Pharmaceutical company says their “female Viagra,” a little pink pill, will “even the score” for women.
Sprout, Inc., an American drug maker and marketer says it has something for a woman who has 10 children and describes her entire sex life as “mostly a duty, a chore,” according to a June 2015 article published by AlJazeeraAmerica.com. “My husband and I have been married 33 years, and I would say 30 of those years we were having difficulty connecting sexually with one another,” the woman told the website. “And the big problem was I had low sexual desire.”
Fair enough. The woman knows herself well enough to recognize her low libido. The question remains, however, if the cause(s) of her condition can be (or should be) treated chemically. A person with the responsibility (shared or not) of raising 10 children, PLUS everything else she must attend to in her life, PLUS any psychosocial issues with which she may be contending, might this person’s sexual troubles be seen from a more holistic perspective, as part of the overall challenges in her life? Moreover, do we, as Americans, want a readily available tablet with many serious reported adverse effects (breast cancer is one risk of the little pink pill) with which to treat people with these problems?
Another problem that factors into this debate is how one qualifies and quantifies persons who are simply in denial about no longer loving their partners. (Surely, a small number never did.) And what of those who aren’t sexually attracted to their partners, for any number of reasons? Sprout, Inc. would certainly argue that clinicians can sort out all these issues. Even if they could, how many patients would submit themselves to full, proper evaluations? These drug makers know full well that most people will self-diagnose and simply ask (or demand) the prescription from their doctor. This is exactly the type of drug that encourages medical self-diagnosis.
The drug, flibanserin, purported to boost the female libido and amp up sexual satisfaction in women, has come to the forefront after more than a decade of development, clinical trials, and two previous attempts at FDA approval. In June, an FDA advisory panel approved the pill, and the agency has until August 18 to make its final decision. Company lobbyists say the drug is long overdue and will address an enormous unmet need, according to the article.
But the pink pill is deeply controversial, and it should be. Even the sexual disorder it’s designed to treat has been the subject of intense debate. The prevalence of sexual dysfunction in women is also contentious. A 1992 study found 43 percent of women suffer from sexual dysfunction, but some of the questioning used in that study was later disputed. Others have suggested the number is more like one in 10.
The woman upon which the AlJazeeraAmerica.com article focused did seek medical help and was eventually diagnosed with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. Defined as a persistent lack of sexual desire, HSDD is considered the most prevalent female sexual dysfunction disorder.
Though the executive director of the Rodeo Drive Women’s Health Center in Beverly Hills told the website that HSDD is real, he also points out that “A lot of people are trying to claim the pink pill is the equivalent of the blue pill or Viagra for men, and it’s just not.”
Viagra is for erectile dysfunction caused by blood flow problems; it treats a mechanical problem, not a sexual desire problem. In contrast, flibanserin was originally developed as an antidepressant–acting on a woman’s neurotransmitters–that Sprout says must be taken every day.
To distract from the serious concerns and known adverse effects of its drug, Sprout sponsors and promotes what’s billed as a “coalition of women’s groups,” called Even The Score, which seeks to frame the FDA’s reluctance, absurdly, as gender discrimination. How much of Even The Score’s total budget comes directly from Sprout, Inc. has not made public. Members of the group traveled from all over the country to pack the meeting room at which the FDA panel recommended approval.
Update: On August 18, 2015, the FDA did approve flibanserin for public consumption. It is marketed under the brand name Addyi.