Women may finally begin to see drugs help fight lower sex drive as they get older. For the first time ever, a panel of health experts has recommended to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a drug aimed at helping women with a sexual problem. The drug is called flibanserin, and it purports to increase sexual desires in women nearing and affected by menopause. The expert recommendation came as a surprise to many as flibanserin had failed on two previous attempts in front of the FDA to gain a recommendation or approval due to poor effectiveness and a variety of side effects.
The panel recommendation doesn’t guarantee flibanserin will get FDA approval, but having the panel of experts back the drug makes it a lot more likely that the FDA will. A formal decision on FDA approval will likely be made later this summer. If the pill is approved, it will be the first drug to get FDA approval to treat the symptoms of a female sexual disorder.
It’s been a long fight to get even this far. Pharmaceutical companies have been trying to create a drug to market toward female sexual disorders since Viagra was introduced in the 1990s. There have been a number of women’s advocacy groups which have thrown their support in favor of flibanserin noting the federal government has done little with drug approval to help women with sexual problems.
Since flibanserin is the first drug with the chance to get FDA approval for women’s sexual issues, it has garnered the nickname “Female Viagra” in many media outlets. The truth is, it’s a completely different drug and targets different areas. Viagra works by improving blood flow to a man’s penis. This helps to boost his erection as a way to treat male impotency. Flibanserin has nothing to do with blood flow. Instead, it targets serotonin (lowering it) and dopamine (increasing it) receptors in the brain. These two neurotransmitters help to boost the sexual desires in women.
Flibanserin isn’t a magic pill for women having sexual problems. The experts describe the pill’s effect as “modest” with only a slightly increasing sexual satisfaction. Although the effects of the pill are small, and the pill won’t help all women with this issue, the panel of experts felt they were still significant enough to meet FDA standards of effectiveness.
One of the main reasons flibanserin hasn’t been approved in the past is due to the side effects. A study by Sprout’s, the drug’s manufacturer, found approximately 10% of those who took the pill suffered from dizziness, fatigue and nausea.
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