Last week, on June 4th, a panel advising the FDA voted toward recommending approval for a drug that can supposedly treat low sexual desire in women. The medication, developed by Sprout Pharmaceuticals and called flibanserin, may be approved by mid-August, and has already met with healthy doses of support and controversy.
Some have heralded the drug as a Viagra-type wünder-potion for ladies, while others have criticized not only whether it really works, but also why it’s necessary – low sexual appetite isn’t ostensibly problematic to some.
According to coverage by the New York Times, supporters of flibanserin, operating as the activist group Even the Score, are pushing for the medication’s approval because of sexual health inequality. Men have access to Viagra and other meds, for instance, while FDA approved treatments for HSDD (Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder) aren’t so available.
A number of online sources, including the NY Times article, reported that the flibanserin pill need only be taken once a day, before the hour of sleep, and over time dopamine and norepinephrine levels will alter, resulting in raised sex drives in premenopausal women. Coverage by The Business Insider explained that the alterations in chemistry could raise sexual interest as well as direct attention to potential and current partners.
Sounds pretty magical, a medication meant to target the parts of the brain linked with sexual desire. The woefully undersexed can rejoice.
Or all the controversial voices have a point or two.
The International Business Times pointed out that, for one, the drug doesn’t function in any way like Viagra, which helps erections sprout via increased blood flow, instead working as a sort of anti-depressant, which it was conceived as before its sex benefits were discovered. It’s also not a magic one-night fix, as its effects begin after a period of time taking the medication.
Business Insider noted that trials showed that women taking a placebo, and not flibanserin itself, had more frequent satisfying sexual encounters than without either false or real medication. Ladies who took flibanserin still had the most satisfying sex proceedings, but not enough to label the drug as wildly successful.
Media outlets also pointed to the fact that the trials utilized ladies who’d had HSDD for some time, not women who’d every once in a while had a dry spell. There’s also the matter of side effects, which, according to many of these articles, include nausea, low blood pressure, and fainting, which doesn’t sound all that sexy. So, the overall success of flibanserin is seemingly modest.
Which doesn’t mean the FDA should shut it down completely, as it has twice before. It is true that men have all kinds of options in this area, but more in terms of getting the body (the schlong, in this case) to keep up with the brain’s sex drive. Flibanserin doesn’t inspire a physical pop that can’t be stopped. Attention being paid to women’s sex drive is a good thing, though, so long as it’s not measured solely against the male metric. I suspect detractors of the drug believe that there are many other factors at play, and pushing what’s effectively an antidepressant doesn’t take into account cultural and societal factors, both on the individual and collective spectrum.
From a certain standpoint, however, this is a pretty solid advancement in the pharmaceutical world. Yes, flibanserin isn’t made for all women everywhere suffering from a lowered sex drive – and I use suffering here in the sense that it’s diagnosable, but that’s up to medical professionals, not sex writers, to determine – but the ladies who do can derive useful additions to pleasure are enough of a population to connote a happy future for flibanserin. The cited articles above mentioned that the margin of success was about one additional satisfying sex event per month, and for some, that’s rather significant.
Check back over the summer, and especially in August, for continued coverage of this controversial new drug.