One year ago, the FDA buckled to pharmaceutical company pressure and approved the female libido drug flibanserin (brand name: Addyi). Flibanserin had failed as an antidepressant but women taking it reported it gave them more good sex. The drug manufacturer hopes to develop it as a non-hormonal treatment for hypoactive sexual disorder, a condition in which women are not interested in sex, don’t desire it and don’t fantasize about it. Study participants took a daily pill and kept a diary about their sexual thoughts and experiences. As I wrote a year ago, if you believe that what you focus on increases, you might get most of the same benefit just by writing a sex diary without taking a pink pill.
In response to Addyi’s approval, the National Women’s Health Network (NWHN), a well-respected watchdog organization, launched the “Pass on the Pink Pill – Or Pass Out” campaign to warn women of the drug’s marginal benefits and serious side effects. Addyi’s life-threatening side effects were so grave that they warranted the strictest possible warning by the FDA—a “black box warning.” Those side effects include severe, sudden drops in blood pressure that can lead to loss of consciousness for prolonged periods. If you currently take or would ever considering taking this drug, PLEASE click and read these dire warnings.
While the drug company’s goal with Addyi was to create a drug that promotes a noticeable increase in libido, so far, studies show that Addyi has little to no effect. In fact, not only is it proving to be ineffective, Addyi’s market performance has been underwhelming, and the NWHN reports that at its sales peak in March, only 1,500 prescriptions were written. Do we really think a pink pill is capable of ”fixing” the vastly complicated makeup of female desire?
When Viagra went on the market, it aimed to treat a very specific disease: erectile dysfunction in a specific body part. Addyi, however, targets the brain, which may explain its many negative side effects. According to Emily Nagoski, sex educator and author of Come As You Are, there are two types of desire: spontaneous desire, which occurs without any physical prompting, and responsive desire, which comes from being in a sexual situation. Nagoski says it’s quite normal for women to only experience responsive desire. But, when comparisons are made men’s bodies, which work differently, women are led to believe that something is wrong with them if they don’t crave sex every day.
Enough already. The beauty and fashion industries have made us feel inadequate about our looks for decades and now the pharmaceutical companies want to make us feel inadequate about our sexuality. Postmenopausal women who don’t much care about sex anymore are being told they have a medical condition they should treat. Women have long been pushed to look and act a certain way, and now we’re supposed to be able to turn our sexual response on and off. In fact, if you listen to the slick ad campaigns, we’re supposed to be hot all the time.
A woman’s sexual response is complex and decreased libido might actually indicate other issues. Perhaps you need to work on your relationship. Maybe you (and/or your partner) are bored. Maybe you need to spend more time communicating what you like, or maybe you need to spend fewer hours at work, or get more rest. If sex hurts, by all means talk to your doctor, but if there’s another part of your life that is out of balance, a little pink pill isn’t likely to help.