US FDA Approves the First ‘Female Viagra’
More than 17 years after it ushered in Viagra, the US FDA has approved the first women’s sex drive drug,  flibanserin. It is being touted as the biggest breakthrough for women’s sexual health since the birth control pill (Photo: iStock)
More than 17 years after it ushered in Viagra, the US FDA has approved the first women’s sex drive drug, flibanserin. It is being touted as the biggest breakthrough for women’s sexual health since the birth control pill (Photo: iStock)

US FDA Approves the First ‘Female Viagra’

Ladies, you will not have to make a trip to the Carribean, to get your groove back.

Flibanserin (fluh-BAN-ser-in- generic name), the little pink pill also known as Viagra for Women, has been approved by the US FDA. The female version of Viagra, that critics say is little more than a placebo, will be available strictly on prescription in the US from October. Manufactured by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the drug will be sold under the brand name, Addyi.

The pill has created a lot of buzz. It has been hyped as the drug that will soar libido, self esteem and improve relationships. Sounds like a miracle pill? But how does it work and what exactly does it treat?

The Drug ‘Flibanserin’

US FDA has green-lighted the “female viagra” despite serious side-effects (Photo: AP)
US FDA has green-lighted the “female viagra” despite serious side-effects (Photo: AP)

According to an FDA analysis of flibanserin, between 8 - 13% of women who take the drug will see some improvement over placebo. That’s a pretty small number, particularly when you consider how “improvement” has been defined.

The drug works by normalising the dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline levels in the female brain. While the women in the trial reported ONE extra episode of sexual satisfaction than those on placebo, is the positive trend enough for the FDA to outweigh its risks?

In the past, the drug has been rejected twice by the US FDA because of potential side-effects.

Flibanserin does not work in the same way as Viagra for men, which increases blood flow, a simple biological function. Flibanserin, which was first studied as an antidepressant, changes brain chemistry (Photo: iStock)
Flibanserin does not work in the same way as Viagra for men, which increases blood flow, a simple biological function. Flibanserin, which was first studied as an antidepressant, changes brain chemistry (Photo: iStock)

The biggest concern is that low BP and fainting spells can cause unconsciousness in someone who takes alcohol while being on the pill. So as a result, doctors will be required to warn patients of the risks of consuming alcohol while taking Addyi.

In addition, the US FDA has asked the manufactureres to give a “boxed warning” to notify patients who drink alcohol, have liver problems or those who take medications called CYP3A4 inhibitors (which interfere with the breakdown of the medication in the body) not to take Addyi.

Are Women Difficult to Please?

There are 26 FDA approved drugs for sexual dysfunctions in men and till now, there wasn’t a single drug for women. That is because male and female sexual disorders have absolutely nothing in common except for the name.

Very rarely is low libido in women is a physical problem. It is mostly due to mental and emotional factors leading to disinterest in sex.

Arousal and low sex drive are still fairly unknown to scientists. One theory is that low sex drive results from the inability to switch off the frontal part of the brain that manages everyday tasks like doing the laundry or paying the bills. With this frontal part switched on, the reward circuitry that manages motivation and pleasure is left behind.

Whether Flibanserin hits the stores or not, but it shows how complicated sexuality can be (Photo: iStock)
Whether Flibanserin hits the stores or not, but it shows how complicated sexuality can be (Photo: iStock)

There are other factors on which women’s sex drive is dependent, like low self esteem or a mundane relationship and these aren’t things which can be dealt with medically. And sex drive does wean with age. But now that the FDA has passed the Flibanserin, will it do for women what Viagra did for men? 

So ladies, will you turn to a pill to fix an ailing sex drive? Let us know in the comment box or on Twitter / Facebook

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