‘Female Viagra’ fails to impress

The first pill designed to boost
the female sex drive failed to make a significant impact on libido in two
studies, federal health regulators said, though some women did report slightly
more sexually satisfying experiences.

The Food and Drug Administration is
considering Boehringer Ingelheim’s drug flibanserin for premenopausal women who
report a lack of sexual desire, a market that drug makers have been targeting
for more than a decade since the blockbuster success of Viagra in men.

The search for so-called
“female Viagra,” has proved elusive though, with many drugs abandoned
after showing lacklustre results.

On Friday the FDA will ask a panel
of experts to weigh in on the safety and effectiveness of Boehringer’s drug.
The agency is not required to follow the group’s advice, though it often does.

In its review posted online FDA
said two Boehringer studies failed to show a significant increase in sexual
desire, as recorded by women in a daily journal. Women taking the drug reported
slightly more sexually satisfying experiences, but FDA said that was not the
primary measure of the study.

“The division wanted to see
that an effect of treatment is an overall increase in sexual desire regardless
of whether a sexual event occurred or not,” states the FDA review.

The FDA also noted increased side
effects like depression, fainting and dizziness seen among women taking the
pink pill.

The drug, which is related to the
antidepressant family, affects serotonin and several other brain chemicals,
though it’s not clear how that increases sex drive.

Medical surveys have estimated more
than 40 percent of women suffer from some form of sexual dysfunction;
Boehringer estimates as many as one in 10 women could be helped by its drug.

Boehringer tried to zero in on the
chemical aspect of sexual dysfunction by only testing its drug on premenopausal
women who were in stable relationships and not taking other medications.
Despite wanting to have a sexual relationship, the women enrolled in company
studies reported a persistent lack of desire that caused them “distress or
interpersonal difficulty.”

During the public comment period at
Friday’s meeting, Leonore Tiefer a psychiatry professor and sex therapist will
ask the FDA to reject flibanserin, arguing it offers meagre benefits for women
with unknown long-term risks.

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