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Women’s Health World Abuzz On ‘Pink Viagra’ Approval, But Are Expectations Realistic?

In this June 22 photo, a tablet of Flibanserin sits on a brochure for Sprout Pharmaceuticals in the company's Raleigh, N.C., headquarters. (Allen G. Breed/AP)

In this June 22 photo, a tablet of Flibanserin sits on a brochure for Sprout Pharmaceuticals in the company’s Raleigh, N.C., headquarters. (Allen G. Breed/AP)

Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on the FDA’s approval this week of the drug Flibanserin, aka “pink Viagra,” to boost women’s sexual desire.

“This is the biggest breakthrough for women’s sexual health since the pill,” Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, told The New York Times.

Others have their doubts. Cindy Pearson, of the National Women’s Health Network, told NPR that approval of the drug “is a triumph of marketing over science” and added: “To have any chance of benefit from this drug they’re going to have to take it every day for months on end, years…We just don’t know what the long-term effects will be of changing brain chemistry in this way.”

Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), said the approval “provides women distressed by their low sexual desire with an approved treatment option…The FDA strives to protect and advance the health of women, and we are committed to supporting the development of safe and effective treatments for female sexual dysfunction.”

The drug, which will be sold under the brand name Addyi, is expected to go on sale Oct. 17, according to its maker, Sprout Pharmaceuticals. And along with the potential to ignite a low (or non-existent) libido among some women, the drug comes with a boxed warning, the strongest kind, on contraindications and potential side effects, including low blood pressure, fainting, nausea, dizziness and sleepiness.

Here’s more on the site Throb, about how the drug actually works.

Still others have extreme doubts.

Emily Nagoski, a feminist sex educator and author of the book “Come As You Are,” wrote a smart, thoughtful piece on the site Medium about why Flibanserin isn’t addressing the true nature of women’s sexual desires. Here’s a bit of that piece, called: “Pleasure is the Measure:”

I believe that the folks at Sprout Pharmaceuticals — the company that owns Flibanserin, the so-called “pink viagra” — have good intentions. I believe that they want to help women who are struggling with sexual desire.

And I believe that they feel sure — as most people do— that lack of spontaneous, out-of-the-blue desire for sex is a problem. A disease.

They are wrong — as you now know.

It’s not their fault, really, that they’re wrong. Cindy Whitehead, Sprout CEO, isn’t a sex researcher, educator, or therapist. She’s a marketing professional, and she’s darn good at her job. But why would she believe anything except what mainstream culture taught her?

In fact the drug is designed — they’ve said explicitly — as though responsive desire were a disease, as though spontaneous desire were the only “normal” way to experience desire.

And that’s a problem. Continue reading

Related:

NPR: Why Catholics Say ‘No’ To Contraception, But ‘Yes’ To Viagra

NPR’s Julie Rovner asks an excellent question in her report today about the ongoing uproar over new federal rules that would require employers to cover contraception as part of an overall package of preventative care for women. She writes:

If health insurance plans offered by Catholic-sponsored entities refuse to cover contraceptives for women because of the religion’s moral teachings banning artificial birth control, do they cover Viagra for men?

She says she got several emails asking just that after her story on the Obama administration’s change in the initial rule mandating coverage of birth control. (As part of the change, Obama said that hospitals, universities and charities sponsored by religious groups could opt out of covering contraception if their insurance companies did offer it to employees.) Continue reading

Viagra For Valentine’s Day

Viagra prescriptions typically spike the week before Valentine's Day

Forget spontaneity. Guys appear to be prepping for romantic encounters Monday with both presents and pills, according to this seasonal piece on MSNBC.

Last year, the week right before Valentine’s Day saw more prescriptions written for Viagra than any other week of the year (the lowest demand came the week before Thanksgiving — clearly a libido-killing holiday).

And this year looks to be no different:

Overall, the week before Valentine’s Day is among the top weeks of the year for demand for all male sex-enhancing drugs, with 396,670 total prescriptions logged representing about 2.9 million doses. That’s nearly 100,000 more pills and injections — and potential love connections — than in an average week.

The reason for the rise is simple, said Dr. Irwin Goldstein, a urologist and director of the San Diego Sexual Medicine center at Alvarado Hospital.

“It’s not Valentine’s Day, it’s Viagra Day,” joked Goldstein. “Valentine’s Day is the one day in the 365-day calendar where interest in intimacy and romance is memorialized.”

In fact, for men — and women — in relationships, expectations are high for having sex on Feb. 14, said Debby Herbenick, associate director of The Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Research from a not-yet published study asked couples who have sex infrequently to say what prompted their most recent encounter, said Herbenick, who is also a sexual health educator with the renowned Kinsey Institute.

Overwhelmingly, the top reason for recent sex was Valentine’s Day, she said.