Potential Impact Of “Desire Drug” On Women’s Sexuality

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Although "female Viagra" was unanimously rejected by the FDA panel, a continued search has been recommended. What will this do for women's sexuality?

Iron Man, Rubber Woman

Photo: mugley on Flikr

Women have more to offer than superheros and sex toys.

The world of women’s sexuality research has been anticipating the weigh-in from the FDA on flibanserin (thought of by some as the “female Viagra”) and its ability to target female sexual desire. Well, the verdict has come and gone, and the drug was unanimously rejected by the FDA panel. You can learn more about flibanserin in last week’s blog post by Dr. Debby Herbenick.

This is not the first time efforts to approve a drug to treat women’s sexual problems have been made. Due in part to this, attention has been paid to the medicalization process, as I touched upon in one of my previous blogs, pointing out how drug trials are used as one of the many steps to the medicalization of women’s sexuality.

So, the benefits of the drug for treating low sexual desire in women didn’t outweigh the side effects (which included fatigue, depression, and fainting spells). However, the manufacturing firm of flibanserin noted that current options are “extremely limited” for treating Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (a disease that some professionals argue was created as part of the medicalization process) and that this drug offers an option for suffering women.

I wonder if they ever thought that perhaps there is a reason pharmaceutical solutions haven’t been successful? Perhaps because sexual desire should be treated “more like dancing than digestion”, in the words of Leonore Tiefer, a leading researcher and activist against the medicalization of women’s sexuality, there isn’t a pill-fix to this one.

The market for a quick fix to women’s desire is a large one, full of women looking for their “little pink pill”, and is potentially worth billions to the lucky pharmaceutical company that wins the race. So as one might imagine, this is not the last we will hear of the search for a desire drug for women.

I’m also certain that this won’t be the last post on issues related to the medicalization of women’s sexuality…so stay tuned.

Kristen Mark, PhD, MPH

completed her PhD in Health Behavior and her MPH in Biostatistics, both at Indiana University. Kristen is an Assistant Professor in Health Promotion at University of Kentucky. Kristen's research focuses on sexual pleasure, sexuality in long term relationships, sexual function, and women's sexuality.
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