For the first time ever, a committee of scientific advisors has recommended the FDA approve a libido drug for women. “Female Viagra” could be on pharmacy shelves by early next year if the FDA follows that recommendation. Many women’s health advocates are calling this a victory, saying this little pink pill finally will bring gender equity to the field of sexual medicine. I disagree. I’m a pro-sex feminist, but I believe that advocating for women’s health means finding solutions for women’s sexual problems that are safe and effective. That hasn’t happened. Not yet.
Until now, the FDA has agreed with the National Women’s Health Network on this issue, and has asked tough questions about drugs marketed to increase women’s sex drives. Sprout Pharmaceuticals’ flibanserin, the libido drug in front of the FDA now, already has been rejected twice for ineffectiveness and side effects. In clinical trials testing its effectiveness, flibanserin has either failed or barely passed. Only about 10-12 percent of women in trials benefited from taking the drug. And even those showing “a modest improvement” in libido were exposed to the drug’s serious side effects, including sudden drops in blood pressure and loss of consciousness. One woman even suffered a concussion when she fainted during a trial.
History should convince us all to be cautious about new drug treatments marketed for women’s health. Female sexual “dysfunction” is not a real condition with a scientifically valid diagnosis. But drug pushers claim that it affects 43 percent of women. That’s 68 million potential customers in the U.S. alone for the first drug maker to get its “female Viagra” past regulators.
Every woman — no matter her age, health status, or relationship status – is entitled to positive sexual experiences. Beyond that, every woman deserves to have positive sexual experiences withoutrisking her physical health. Advocating for a libido drug that accomplishes that is not sexist. In fact, it’s feminist. For more information on the Network’s position, please visit our website.