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The New “Female Viagra” is Actually an Antidepressant

femaleviagraIn what can only be described as an extraordinarily foolish and sexist action, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the drug  “Addyi,” which is misleadingly being touted as the “Female Viagra.”  Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of this pill won the FDA approval after two consecutive rejections in the year 2010 and 2013 respectively. The recommendation has been welcomed as a win for sexual equality by a controversial advocacy group called Even the Score which is backed by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the developers of the drug. The campaigners argued that because men have Viagra, it’s only fair that women should have access to a similar medical solution to their sexual problems. [3] Large-scale trials involving almost 2,000 women with low libido, or hypoactive sexual desire disorder, have now confirmed its worth as an aphrodisiac.  After taking the drug, the women had sex 60 per cent more often and also found it more satisfying. They also felt less stressed about their sex lives. [5] But even if it’s marketed as some sort of “female Viagra,” unlike the original Viagra, which affects blood flow to the male genitals, Addyi, the “pink Viagra” for women, is all about messing with their minds—it’s an antidepressant drug.  [1] Consequently, while the blue pill for men should be taken before engaging in sexual activity, women are to take the pink pill daily. [4] And the more you read about it the worse it gets.  Addyi, an antidepressant drug,  was designed to “treat” the so-called mental disorder, Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD), or female sexual interest/arousal disorder.  So the drug isn’t just to for everyone to get their freak on.  It’s an answer to a disorder that’s not uncommon among women.  According to Addyi’s creators, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, “Addyi is the first and only FDA-approved treatment for this condition, the most common form of female sexual dysfunction, affecting up to 1 in 10 women in the United States.” [2]  Sprout explains that “HSDD is defined as a persistent absence of sexual thoughts, fantasies, responsiveness and willingness to engage in sexual activity that causes personal or relationship distress and cannot be accounted for by another medical condition or substance.” Although it is more than just not feeling in the mood, it’s actually a difference in the brain. In fact, according to the International Business Times, “scans of women with HSDD show a difference in the way these patients react to erotic images as compared with healthy women, but researchers aren’t sure what neurological mechanisms are to blame for that switch.” [22] So this is why some think a drug that affects the brain is the answer.  If anything, Fiera, the arousal enhancer, is more like Viagra, because it increases blood flow to your genitals, and so is used just a while before sex. Addyi is dealing with a problem in the brain. [2]  In short, this drug approval not only suggests, but supports, the absurd notion that women, for any number of reasons, who do not seek sexual arousal, are somehow suffering from a mental illness. [1]

orgasm-pills“Addyi” reportedly increases the brain chemicals dopamine and noradrenalin, while at the same time reducing Serotonin and, voila, increased sexual desire is achieved. [1] As Forbes puts it, it’s “a 5-HT1A receptor agonist and 5-HT2A receptor antagonist (Serotonin = 5-HT, or 5-hydroxytryptamine), identified by Boehringer Ingelheim in an antidepressant drug discovery campaign but it lacked efficacy. Instead, it was developed to improve the number of satisfying sexual experiences in women with low sexual desire.” [2] [23] It all sounds very “scientific.” A little chemical increase here, a reduction there, and the female libido is revved up and ready to go. But it’s not that simple and, in the case of the antidepressant, “Addyi,” there are some very serious, even life-threatening adverse reactions.  First though, as is the case with all antidepressants, no one has a clue how “Addyi” actually works in the brain to “treat” the alleged mental disorder HSDD and, according to the FDA advisory committee on the drug, “the precise mechanism of action by which flibanserin enhances sexual desire in patients with HSDD is not known.” What is known though is that while the FDA has approved “Addyi,” the federal agency is covering its actions by attaching serious drug oversight and warnings.  The clinical trial results were marginal at best—women taking “Addyi” experienced an increase of about 0.5 to 1 sexually satisfying events per month compared to women taking the placebo.

folleThe FDA is so concerned about the possible adverse effects of “Addyi” on women that it is requiring doctors and pharmacists to watch an online presentation and pass a test of their understanding, literally becoming certified to prescribe and dispense the drug.  While most would agree that it is insulting and demeaning to suggest women suffer from a mental illness because of a lack of desire to participate in a sexual act, this isn’t the first time the FDA, with the help of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), has become an accomplice in what can only be described as disease mongering.  The APA decided by a show-of-hands vote that Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), also known as PMS, is a mental disorder and pharmaceutical giant, Eli Lilly, jumped on the bandwagon repackaging its blockbuster antidepressant, Prozac, as a new “treatment” for PMDD called Sarafem. [1] There was nothing “new” about Sarafem, as there is literally no chemical difference between the antidepressants Prozac and Sarafem. Lilly simply changed the color of the pill from green to the very feminine pink and lavender and sold it as a new “treatment” for a nonexistent mental disorder. [1]


sexcrazedLike Prozac and Sarafem, the new pink “Addyi” is a thrice failed antidepressant repackaged as a first of its kind “treatment” for women “suffering” from the alleged mental illness of not wanting sex.   If you don’t have the sex drive of a porn star then you are mentally ill and must be medicated.  With all the other problems that comes with it.  Although this could end up being the solution for women suffering from HSDD, it’s important to remember that, even if it is effective for you, there are some risks.  The main side effects associated with Addyi were dizziness or drowsiness, both found in about 11 percent of users, which sometimes lead to fainting. Also, according to NPR, some users “wake up so groggy the morning after it could be dangerous for them to drive to work. And there could be long-term risks from taking a psychoactive drug daily for years.” Remember it’s a daily, long-term commitment. One of the controversies of Addyi is these side effects, so it has been given the strongest possible warnings and also is not to be combined with alcohol. Which is a big commitment for an every day pill. [2] Beyond the known dangerous side effects associated with the antidepressant, “Addyi,” and the nonexistent mental disorder it alleges to “treat,” there are other questions that scream for answers, such as who decides what is the “normal” number of sexual encounters a woman may desire? And, if a woman desires less sex than others, does that require chemically altering the brain? [1] There have long been obvious differences between the sexual drive and desires of men and woman, comically revealed by Billy Crystal in the film City Slickers when he explained “women need a reason to have sex, men just need a place.” [1] There are also concerns about the impact on gender relations, increased pressure on women to enjoy and initiate sex, and the potential coercive use of the drug. [3] True or not, the use of dangerous mind-altering drugs to allegedly increase a woman’s sexual desire is simply a continuation of the FDA and APA’s history of pathologizing normal female behavior and it is a disservice to women, not a mental disorder. [1]

[1] Kelly Patricia O’Meara, Mind Games—The New “Female Viagra” is Actually an Antidepressant, Cchrint.org, August 20, 2015
[4] Jana Kasperkevic, FDA approves ‘female Viagra’ pill Flibanserin after two rejections, The Guardian, Tuesday 18 August 2015 23.47 BST
[5] Fiona Macrae, Female ‘Viagra’ boosts woman’s sex drive after failing as antidepressant, Daily Mail,11:59 GMT, 17 November 2009
[6] Theresa Fisher, Let’s Call “Female Viagra” What it Is: A Mediocre Antidepressant, Van Winkle’s, August 21, 2015 at 3:12pm
[7] Addyi: an antidepressant not female Viagra, NewsGram,  Aug 20th, 2015 01:38 PM
[8] Joanna Rothkopf, FDA Officially Approves ‘Female Viagra’, Jezebel, 8/18/15 10:55pm
[12] Flibanserin, the ‘Viagra for Women’, Berkeley Wellness, August 19, 2015
[13] How Big Pharma Used Feminism To Get The “Female Viagra” Approved, BuzzFeed, Aug. 18, 2015, at 6:47 p.m.
[14] Lydia Smith, ‘Female Viagra’ Addyi approved in the US: What is Flibanserin and how does it work?, The International Business Times, August 19, 2015 10:27 BST
[15] Zosia Bielski, Drug firm touts failed antidepressant as Viagra for women, Globe and Mail, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009 10:33AM EST
[16] Helen Thompson, Stop Calling Flibanserin “Female Viagra”, Smithsonian Mag, June 5, 2015
[17] Jennifer Goldberg, Do We Need a “Female Viagra”?, Best Health Mag, August 18 2015
[18] John Naish, Does the female Viagra really work?, NZHerald, 12:00 PM Wednesday Jun 24, 2015
[19] Denis Slattery, Drug dubbed ‘female Viagra’ wins FDA approval after being rejected twice, New York Daily News, Thursday, June 4, 2015, 6:07 PM
[20] Trey Taylor, You can finally get an FDA approved lady boner, Dazed, August 20 1015
[21] Lizzie Dearden, ‘Female Viagra’ could soon go on sale after approval from US drugs panel, The Independent, Saturday 06 June 2015
[22] Amy Nordrum, What Is Addyi? FDA Set To Approve So-Called Female Viagra, The First Drug To Treat Low Sex Drive In Women, International Business Times, August 18 2015 12:17 PM EDT
[23] Jana Kasperkevic, FDA approves ‘female Viagra’ pill Flibanserin after two rejections, Forbes, Tuesday 18 August 2015 23.47 BST


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