I am two days late to pronounce my case for and/or against the new drug to treat (or cure) women’s low desire or hypoactive sexual desire disorder, HSDD. Technically this is the new savior for women who suffer distress due to low libido. This is NOT a female version of Viagra, Levitra or Cialis, the males’ drug to sustain erections related to blood flow. Instead it is a pill that works on the brain, adding chemicals that are yet to be proven for their positive long lasting effects on libido. It will be out in October, led by a woman at the helm of a pharmaceutical corporation aptly named “Sprout”, a brand that is cunningly female-friendly and with obvious dollars invested in its look, feel and target-marketed campaigns.
Last week I was in Alexandria, Virginia, attending the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit and (gasp) I happened to be in the room for a lecture with a 30-year female veteran of the FDA who practically fainted with excitement that the drug might win approval this week, as she and her wife have suffered long with an absence of sexual desire. For her, popping yet another pharmaceutical will be her saving grace–not addressing the myriad issues that may be plaguing a long term relationship, such as addressing her thoughts, feelings, experiences in bed, possible depression or more….I can only say “Oh My!”
I have been a staunch opponent to the new Flibanserin pill, dubbed “Addyi” which rhymes with my name and that’s disturbing enough….I worry this is only a ploy to sell drugs and make profits on the backs of women who are desperate enough to climb over their shame about not wanting sex and qualify to get the goods. So do many of my esteemed colleagues such as Leonore Tiefer, PhD, who has fought heroically to stop this nonsense of medicalizing what may be normal or treatable with non medical means without the nasty side effects. A diagnosis of HSDD warrants proper sexuality education, counseling, sex therapy or sex coaching. (I am a supporter of testosterone supplementation for women who qualify for this type of medical intervention for low libido and other conditions that warrant more T in the system, which also can produce unwanted negative side effects. Tiefer also campaigned against the female T patch a few years ago, which I did not support. But that’s not what this is all about.)
Not to say that lack of or NO sexual desire is not real or a legitimate issue. It does affect at least one of ten women; but to make this a mental health disorder and to prescribe another SSRI (anti-depressant drug that mucks with your serotonin levels with no long term studies on its potential harmful effects) is unethical to me. Add to that the burden of not being able to drink or take yeast treatments while using it, and that low blood pressure, nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, fainting or worse may occur especially when this may become the new “girl party drug” on campus…the potential implications for real women seeking real answers, well, make me faint.
But wait, there’s more! Here is the joke to me as a sexologist who knows a lot about human behavior and what it will take to actually get the drug in your own purse! As APA states in a recent article, “Under an FDA-imposed safety plan, doctors will only be able to prescribe Addyi after completing an online certification process that requires counseling patients about Addyi’s risks. Pharmacists will also need certification and will be required to remind patients not to drink alcohol while taking the drug.” Later in the same article, they share, ” safety advocates and pharmaceutical critics warn that Addyi is a problem-prone drug for a questionable medical condition.” Heck yeah!
P.S. News update: Pharma giant, Valeant, just offered to buy Sprout for $1 billion. Do you think that there is a hope for big cash in its future?
Love & Light,