The ‘Pink Pill’ Isn’t Viagra for Women
SEXUAL HEALTH

The ‘Pink Pill’ Isn’t Viagra for Women

By Temma Ehrenfeld @TemmaEhrenfeld
 | 
June 11, 2015

A new option for women who want to feel more desire

By mid-August, we’ll know whether the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved flibanserin (Addyi), the little “pink pill” that promises to boost female lust. The members of an expert advisory committee that twice ruled against approval have come out in favor this time, largely because they’re now convinced that women need an option to fight low libido. The change of heart wasn’t based on new evidence about the pill’s safety or effectiveness.

Although some people call flibanserin a “Viagra for women,” there’s a big difference. Viagra helps the penis function. Flibanserin doesn’t target blood flow to the vagina. Instead, it acts on the brain. The drug flunked trials as anti-depressant before the campaign to get it approved as a lust-enhancer.

The manufacturer, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, is asking for FDA approval of the drug for pre-menopausal women, though it could be useful for women after menopause as well. The pill’s effects on libido aren’t huge but sufficient to meet the agency’s standards. It won’t work for everyone, and the impact may be minor. Compared to a placebo, women taking flibanserin have reported one more “sexually satisfying event” a month on average. Note that a “sexually satisfying event” need not include an orgasm. On questionnaires, the women reported a slight increase in desire and a slight decrease in stress. On the other hand, some women have reported more dramatic responses.

Ten to 12 percent of patients in the company’s research experienced each of the most common side-effects: sleepiness, dizziness, and fatigue. The FDA’s current review focuses on side-effects that are rare but more serious, including dangerously low blood pressure and fainting. Those risks seem to rise in patients who drink alcohol or take birth control pills or antifungal drugs.

Ask your gynecologist to help you rule out the many possible reasons why you’d rather wash dishes than seduce your mate. Anti-seizure drugs and SSRI antidepressants can dampen lust. Desire-killers include fatigue, sleep apnea, depression, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other medical problems. Obviously, it doesn’t help if you have a pelvic floor problem or have pain with intercourse, the kind of issues that women take to urologists. In a survey of female urology patients, 36 percent of women ages 18 to 30 reported low desire, along with 48 percent of women ages 31 to 45, and 65 percent of women 56 to 64.

Relationship problems are, of course, the ultimate buzz kill. If you used to like sex with your current partner, did your habits change? You may have cut back on foreplay or stopped taking time to be affectionate outside of bed. Maybe your husband is more bothered by your lack of desire than you are. It’s not necessarily wrong to push yourself by taking a medication to please him, but only if you don’t end up feeling resentful. On the other hand, don’t assume that happy couples have sex every morning or night. In a large survey about half of married women ages 30 to 49 said they had intercourse “a few times per month to weekly.” About a quarter had sex twice a week or more — and the rest less often than weekly. Are you afraid he’ll cheat or leave you if your sex life has dwindled into the low end of that curve? Those kind of fears require candid conversation. Be candid with yourself as well. If you’ve lost interest even in masturbation and rarely have sexual thoughts, you’ve lost touch with that side of life. You may not care — but then again, you may be grateful if you get effective help. 

Updated:

June 11, 2015

Reviewed By:

Janet O’Dell, RN

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