If you’ve been listening to the news lately, you might have heard about the little pink pill called flibanserin, a drug that’s being called Viagra for women.
The buzz surrounding flibanserin has intensified, as the FDA advisory panel approved the drug on June 4. The FDA often listens to the recommendations of its advisory panel; however, the FDA has already rejected the drug two other times. Either way, the public will know the final decision of the FDA by August 18, the final deadline for the agency to issue its decision.
So, what is flibanserin and should it be approved? Let’s look a little closer.
Flibanserin: Viagra for Women?
Flibanserin is meant to treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in premenopausal women. HSDD is a persistent lack of interest in sex and it impacts one out of 10 women. The drug treats HSDD by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine and decreasing serotonin. It corrects an imbalance of neurotransmitters that are responsible for sexual desire.
The way flibanserin works is very different from Viagra. Flibanserin is taken before bed to balance neurotransmitters in the brain, while Viagra is taken before sex to increase blood flow further South. So, the fact that both drugs are used to treat sexual problems is where the similarities end.
What’s Taking So Long?
The FDA has rejected flibanserin twice already, mentioning concerns about the drug’s side effects and effectiveness.
The side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, low blood pressure, fainting, nausea, and vomiting. Some doctors and researchers worry that the side effects may worsen with alcohol consumption. However, this concern is based on a small study that involved primarily men.
As for concerns about effectiveness, critics of the pill have cited clinical trials which showed that the drug only helped 10-12% of women. Critics don’t believe that the modest success rate of the pill outweighs its side effects. However, fans of the pill believe that modest improvement is better than no improvement for women suffering from HSDD.
Drug Approval: A Feminist Issue
Both women in favor of and opposed to FDA approval of flibanserin have said that whether the drug is approved is a feminist issue.
Proponents of flibanserin approval state that men have 25 drugs available to treat sexual dysfunction, while women don’t have any. If approved, flibanserin would be the first drug available to treat HSDD. Supporters of flibanserin believe that the drug will not only improve women’s sexual health and relationships, but also societal understanding and acceptance of sexual dysfunction in women.
Opponents of flibanserin don’t think it helps women to approve a drug with side effects and only a modest success rate. They argue that approving the drug would do nothing to improve gender equality. Men would still have dozens of safe options to treat their sexual dysfunction and women would have only one option, that they argue is not as safe or effective.
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