It’s very sad to see a scientific organization like the FDA give into political pressure that helps pharmaceutical companies bring a likely useless drug to market. Flibanserin is an anti-depressant that Sprout Pharmaceuticals is trying to get approved for treatment of low sexual desire in women*.
I’m concerned about this drug, or any drug that acts on the central nervous system. To refer to Flibanserin as a “Female Viagra” is a terrible misnomer. In men, viagra rarely fails, because it is a cardiovascular drug. It works by building up blood flow to the penis, but men still have to build up desire to get the blood flowing in the first place. Of course, for men that doesn’t seem to be much of a problem, because they apparently think about sex a lot.
But Flibanserin works with serontonin in your brain. And anytime you are dealing with human behavior, the placebo effect can have a huge influence on your response to the drug. Placebo effect means that just believing you are taking the drug has the same effect even if you are taking a fake pill.
Another difference is that anti-depressants often take 3 to 6 months before a patient sees a real benefit. From what I’ve read so far, it seems Flibanserin is only taken for 4 weeks in clinical trials. But it’s definitely not an on-demand pill with one-pill-30-minutes-later-success like Viagra.
The other problem with female sexual desire is that it is very difficult to measure. The real test in the lab is often female lubrication, but who wants to measure that at home? Orgasm could be another measure, but for some reason it isn’t cited. One of the reasons Flibanserin has not been approved in past efforts is that, in order to demonstrate efficacy, they changed how they were measuring success.
Now I’ll tell you the personal side of my story. I apologize to my kids and family for any embarrassment in their reading this, but I hope this helps anyone reading this article. After I finished my novel, I hit menopause and experienced my own sexual dysfunction. I could no longer orgasm. I can only describe this in biology science lab terms. Did you ever take a frog leg and watch how an electrical stimulus gets the muscle to move? It’s called reaching the action potential, and then the nerves/muscle fire. In my dysfunction, I could get extremely aroused, but I could not reach the last little peak for the nerves to fire. I also had a problem where my mons lost its padding and became kind of bony, causing discomfort during sex.
I went to my female internist, who prescribed Vagifem, a low-dose vaginal estrogen pill that dissolves slowly over a day. It is usually prescribed for women who are having trouble getting pregnant. While this helped with the mons, plumping it back up a little, the other thing that really helped was sex toys. We now have a stack of vibrators that we can use in various positions.
Do I worry about using vaginal estrogen? Yes. I get my annual mammogram and pap smears. I don’t have an immediate family history of breast or uterine cancer, altho there are other cancers in my family. At some point, I guess my doctor will stop refilling the prescription. I can tell, as I get older, that it is having less effect anyway.
In addition to those solutions, the best recommendation is to keep having regular intercourse. Use it or lose it applies to every part of your brain and body. I am 63 now. Although I seldom have desire on my own, and rarely initiate sex anymore, I am sexually responsive to my husband’s desire. So I might be genetically more capable of having sexagenarian sex than most women.
Anyhow, I just wanted to post this straightforward response to the FDA’s decision yesterday Jun-4-2015. I know women want and deserve equality in research. But this approval is really driven by the pharmaceutical companies, who got a bunch of feminists to back them up. There may be a real drug out there that can help women. But the best way today to help yourself is to figure out what you like, how to correct what you don’t like, and don’t be afraid to go to a good sex novelty shop. We go to Good Vibrations in the SF Bay Area. Visit it if you’re ever in San Francisco.
* The condition used to be called FSD (Female Sexual Dysfunction) and now is called HSDD (Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder) or even FSIAD (female sexual interest/arousal disorder). About 10 years ago, I wrote a romance novel about a pill to create desire in women (unpublished). I actually researched the subject a lot, plus I was aided by my now-husband, Lowell Sears, who is a Life Sciences venture capitalist. He invests in pharmaceuticals and has taught me a bit about the industry.