Sex Drug for Women — Should it be approved?

WomanPonderingManInBackgroundFor years, we’ve been hearing about the women’s version of Viagra, and many have been waiting with baited breath to get their hands on it. Lack of sexual desire is a very common problem in women, especially as we age. The problem is very real, causing stress, relationship problems, feelings of inadequacy and depression. Unlike the most common sexual complaint in men, erectile dysfunction, which is a bit more straightforward, hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is a multifaceted issue. Stress, relationship problems, feelings of inadequacy and depression, in addition to physical problems, can contribute. You can see why this has us chasing our tails — and not chasing his.

Tomorrow, the FDA will decide whether or not to approve flibanserin, a once a day pill formulated to increase desire. It has been twice rejected by the FDA. Both times, the FDA ruled the side effects were worse than the moderate benefit shown in the research. In one clinical trial, women taking the drug reported having 4.4 satisfying sexual experiences a month, compared with 3.7 in those taking placebo. The average in all these women prior to the study was 2.7.

Side effects include nausea, insomnia, fatigue, upset stomach, dizziness, and anxiety. Funny, I may have used all of those excuses in bed at one time or another.

There is a movement called Even the Score, aimed at encouraging the FDA to approve the pill. Started by the manufacturer of flibanserin, and backed by many women’s advocacy groups, Even the Score claims there is an inequity in the way men’s sexual dysfunction and women’s sexual dysfunction is handled in the pharmaceutical industry and the bodies that regulate. There are 26 drugs to help men enjoy a healthy sex life, and side effects include things as serious as heart and vision problems.

I would love to jump on this bandwagon, because it would be amazing if women could have a more satisfying sex life just by convincing government agencies we deserve it, too. While Even the Score is catchy, unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. Men, and this shouldn’t come as a shock, are more simple. They cannot get an erection. A medication is developed to drive blood flow to their penis and presto, hard on.

Women are more complicated. Lack of sexual desire, is the result of many issues. We don’t feel sexy. We think we are fat. We are exhausted. Our partner is a jerk. The kids might walk in. We need to get some sleep. Our stress level is at an all time high. Our partner is fat. We don’t think our partner is sexy. On top of these issues, we have medical issues affecting our sexual desire. Hormonal fluctuations, mental health problems, chronic illness, vaginal changes during menopause, and low testosterone can all contribute.

No matter how much I wish for this pill to be a huge success, it is doubtful it can combat all of the emotional and physical aspects of a woman’s HSDD. While women have been treated unfairly in the field of healthcare for many years, I do not think this is just an example of men’s medical problems getting more attention. It will be interesting to see if all the lobbying and petition signing will help to sway the FDA to approve this drug, which is really just putting a bandaid on a gaping wound … and a little, tiny bandaid at that, like the ones that are always leftover in the assorted box.

Perhaps, if flibanserin is approved, the pharmaceutical industry will be motivated to spend more on researching ways to improve sex for women. In the meantime, I have a few non-pharmaceutical suggestions for male partners:

— Focus on your relationship, rather than your sex life.

— Open up, and let her know how her lack of interest in you makes you feel.

— Understand, foreplay for women starts hours before bedtime.

— Be nice. Be appreciative. Be complimentary.

— Put down your Blackberry and pick up a dish.

— Pay attention to what she is saying.

— Don’t comment on the hot 22 year old on TV.

— Shower. Cover your mouth when you burp. Use mouthwash. Groom. You get the idea.

— Encourage exercising together.

— Give a back rub with no expectations.

— Pour some wine.

— Kiss. Just kiss.

— If the kissing leads to more, be unselfish in bed.

Men might think it unfair to have to spend so much time and energy on something they can start, enjoy and finish in 5-7 minutes. From an evolutionary standpoint, the female has no reason to engage in sex after her childbearing years. So, men who want to have a good sexual relationship with a middle aged partner are fighting not only fatigue, poor self-esteem and disinterest, they have to overcome millions of years of evolvement. Maybe it is unfair, but welcome to our world.

Important to note, HSDD is only a problem if it is causing distress. If you don’t want to have sex and this isn’t bothering you or your partner, rest easy … on your side of the bed with no one pawing at you.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Doctor, mom of five and founder of Tips From Town.


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