Female Viagra: Why’s the FDA Trying to C*ck Block?

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Via Buzzfeed

Via Buzzfeed

Last week, [flibanserin] was given its final shot at being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), after being rejected twice before. If approved, it will be the first drug authorized by the agency to treat sexual dysfunction in women, compared with nine prescription drugs available for men. Its manufacturers have been battling with regulators over whether female sexual desire should be treated with drugs. Can something as elusive as desire boil down to biology?

Low libido is the most common sexual complaint among women — and it’s not just [a] middle-aged cohort feeling the squeeze.

About 10% of pre-menopausal women in the U.S. are diagnosed with “hypoactive sexual desire disorder” (HSDD), first defined in medical literature roughly 30 years ago.

People with HSDD are uninterested in sex regardless of mood or occasion, capped off with a heavy dose of distress and anxiety over doing the deed. Most importantly, their problem exists in the absence of any other notable culprits — psychiatric problems, for example, or drug side effects, or an inattentive partner.

The biological contributions to female desire are no better understood than the social ones, but they have the advantage of potentially being tweaked with drugs. While a testosterone patch for women was tested in 2004, it never made it to the U.S. market. A handful of other hormonal and non-hormonal drugs owned by small companies are now at various stages of clinical testing.

The drug farthest along in this category, by far, is flibanserin. The drug was originally tested, in 2006, as an antidepressant. It didn’t work well as a mood-lifter, but researchers noticed it had an intriguing side effect: Unlike most antidepressants, which squash libido, flibanserin seemed to do the opposite.

While Viagra has a shining beacon of an indicator in men — the undeniable presence of a hard-on — female sexual desire is more difficult to quantify. Parrish had felt totally changed by her experience, but when the results from all of the participants were tallied, it wasn’t enough to prove the drug worked.

After the failed trial, Sprout Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to the drug and launched a clinical trial with more rigorous surveys to quantify sexual desire. This final trial tested over 1,000 women looking at three factors in particular — increased desire, lowered distress, and a higher number of “satisfying sexual events.”

Although Sprout’s new trial showed promising results, flibanserin was by no means a cure-all. About 10% of women dropped out of the six-month trial because of side effects. Women on the drug showed a 37% boost in sexual desire, a 37% increase in satisfying sexual events, and a 21% decrease in sexual distress, and all of these were significantly different than the results of the placebo group.

Despite these encouraging results, in 2013 the FDA again rejected flibanserin, this time due to side effects such as sedation, dizziness, nausea, and rare respiratory infections. Long-term safety concerns are crucial for a drug that is a once-a-day pill (as opposed to an on-demand libido booster, like Viagra). But the safety question has made many women infuriated at a government agency they view as making sexist decisions about the nature of sexuality.

As Buzzfeed points out, the number of sexual dysfunction drugs available for men pales in comparison to the zero amount readily available for women.

In terms of risks, male Viagra has just as many, if not more potential side effects, as female Viagra.

Do I find the fact that there are currently no sexual dysfunction drugs available for women, while there are multiple sexual dysfunction drugs available for men a direct result  of a patriarchal, historically sexist ridden, and sexually oppressive society? Hell yes.

Do I think the nature of society may be playing a part in why the FDA has yet to release this drug? Given our culture’s track record, I certainly think it’s worth taking a look at and raising these questions. Could these FDA sanctions be solely due to the fact that there are risks in taking flibanserin? Yes. But if that were the sole case, why are there nine erectile dysfunction drugs, each equipped with their own set of side effects, currently accessible on the mass market?

What are your guys’ thoughts?

 

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Akanimoh Ekong studies creative writing at the University of Illinois, with special interests in women’s issues as they relate to sexuality and race.

She previously has written “Girlfriends” column for Buzz magazine. Akanimoh believes the art of fashion should be the utmost form of self-expression. She dually enjoys blogging on issues pertaining to fashion and pop culture news.

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