Sex Drugs for Women: Myths and Marketing Messages

Headline writers like cute titles, so "female Viagra" was an inevitable nickname for a women’s sex drug.  And Addyi pills are pink, sending a not-so-subtle message that women have a pink pill for sex, just like men have a blue pill for sex. But that’s where the similarities end.

Viagra (chemical name: sildenafil) helps people who want to have sex, but who can't maintain an erection, by increasing blood flow to the penis. Viagra is taken only when needed, usually 30-60 minutes before sex.

Addyi (chemical name: flibanserin) helps cisgender, heterosexual women (the only group tested in clinical trials) feel more interested in sex roughly 10% more frequently than they would otherwise.  It affects naturally occurring chemicals in the brain and is taken every day.

Addyi doesn't impact the mechanics of sex, only the desire to have sex. Nor is it a pill a person can take only when they’re "in the mood."

References

  • [1]FDA Presentations for the June 4, 2015 Joint Meeting of the Bone, Reproductive and Urologic Drugs Advisory Committee and the Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee Meeting.  Slide 26. (View PDF)
  • [2]FDA Briefing Document. Joint Meeting of the Bone, Reproductive and Urologic Drugs Advisory Committee (BRUDAC) and the Drug Safety and Risk Management (DSaRM) Advisory Committee June 4, 2015.   Section I, pages 3-4.  (View PDF pages 7-8).
  • [3] Moynihan, Ray & Cassels, Alan.  “Selling Sickness” 2005, Nation Books, New York.  Page 175.
  • [4] “About Asexuality” The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network.  asexuality.org
  • [5] Nicolai, MPJ, et al. A review of the positive and negative effects of cardiovascular drugs on sexual function: a proposed table for use in clinical practice.  Neth Heart J. 2014 Jan; 22(1): 11–19.
  • [6] Higgins, A.  Antidepressant-associated sexual dysfunction: impact, effects, and treatment. Drug Healthc Patient Saf. 2010; 2: 141–150.
  • [7] Same as footnote 2. Section II, page 17.  (PDF page 30)

Coco Jervis, J.D., is a former NWHN Program Director. With a focus on AIDS and HIV, and a law degree from Howard University School of Law, she expertly advocates for sexual and reproductive health. Coco continues her activism today as the Grant Manager for the feminist organization MamaCash.

Read more from Coco Jervis.

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