There’s a new treatment recommended for approval by the FDA to treat women struggling with sexual hypoactivity or low sexual desire. It's called ADDYI (flibanserin) by Sprout Pharmaceuticals. This new drug will help women have more satisfying sexual experiences and less emotional distress around their sexual dysfunction. Although media is using “female viagra” to describe it, the mechanism for this drug is much different than increasing blood flow to the genitals as Viagra does.
The most recent neuropharmacological explanation for its effects is that the combination of 5-HT receptor binding increases downstream release of dopamine and norepinephrine while reducing serotonin release in the brain circuits that mediate symptoms of reduced sexual interest and desire, according to a 2015 review article by pharmacologist and psychiatrist, Stephen Stahl, MD, PhD, of the University of California at San Diego. This brain mechanism is distinct from that of Viagra-like drugs for men, phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5 inhibitors), which acts as to increase blood flow to the penis to establish and maintain an erection. So flibanserin is in no way a woman’s Viagra.
Why is this important?
This is the third time it's been on the chopping block with FDA. Concerns are with efficacy and side effects. Proponents claim that the FDA has taken a harsher stance on the side effects than they did with Viagra, even though the side effects are very similar. There is even a push to say that the evaluators on these committees believe women and their doctors are not sophisticated enough to weigh the risks and benefits like men and their doctors do when prescribing Viagra. Groups like Even The Score have launched campaigns to educate on equity for women’s sexual health. The chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) Susan Scanlan: “As supporters of the Even the Score campaign, we believe that women have the right to make their own informed choices concerning their sexual health; that gender equality should be the standard when it comes to access to treatments for sexual dysfunction; and that the approval of safe and effective treatments for women’s sexual dysfunction should be a priority for action by the FDA,” Scanlan said. If it does not get approved again, at least people got to talk about women’s sexual health.
The Even the Score campaign works to:
-Educate on the prevalence of women’s sexual dysfunction; -Inform on the gender disparity regarding FDA-approved treatments for the condition; -Advocate that the same standards are applied to approve safe and effective treatments for the most common form of women’s sexual dysfunction as have been for men; and -Support women who are suffering with female sexual dysfunction by providing a community to share experiences and stand together for progress. Further to support the decision-makers and regulators who make this a priority.
There are 26 drugs to help men with sexual dysfunction and none for women. There are synthetic hormone treatments for low estrogen levels, but may not necessarily target libido or satisfaction from sexual activity. We finally have a drug that can help women, statistically speaking according to the trials done thus far. It can be argued by opponents that the increase in sexual satisfaction for less than one sexually satisfying event per month to one sexually satisfying event per month is not enough to show significant efficacy.
The FDA has approved imperfect drugs before and if it helps a small group of people it's important to those people. The advocates of helping women with sexual hypoactivity understand that this is an issue that runs deep, families and couples that are happy and functional can have their health and happiness threatened by sexual hypoactivity. Bottom line: a medicine that helps women improve their sexual well being, is always a good thing.