The pink pill, the “female Viagra” for lack of sexual desire in women

pink pill It is known as the female Viagra. The pink pill, which would increase the female libido, has been approved by the Food and drug administration’s (Fda) advisory panel in the United States. The approval is not definitive, because the drug’s developer Sprout Pharmaceuticals must reduce the risks of side effects. Besides, the panel’s recommendation is not binding: regulators of Fda will take the final decision by August 18th, 2015.

The vote has fuelled an intense debate in the United States about the potentialities and the risks of the drug. Flibanserin, the little pink pill, acts in a different way as compared with its male equivalents. First of all, it is designed for women who have not gone through menopause. Secondly, it can cause physical problems, such as dizziness, low blood pressure and fainting.

The male Viagra, prescribed for fighting Erectile dysfunction (impotence), works at a biological level: it allows men to get an erection and to keep it up, augmenting the flow of blood in some parts of the body. Differently, Flibanserin should stimulate sexual desire in women, influencing the levels of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin. The pill should be ingested once a day, before going to bed, by women who suffer from Hypoactive sexual desire disorder. This condition may occur in up to one-third of adult women in the United States, according to some studies, and it is characterized by a deficiency or absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity that causes marked distress and interpersonal difficulty.

More than 11.000 women have taken part in clinical trials. As The New York Times reports:

“Three clinical trials testing flibanserin were consistent in their results. The women who took part were having an average of two to three of what they defined as ‘sexually satisfying events’ per month when the studies began. Once they started taking the drug, the number of such events increased, but by only about one event per month more than for women in the trial who got a placebo. Women getting flibanserin also reported on monthly questionnaires that they felt more desire, although the difference compared with a placebo was only about 0.3 points on a scale ranging from 1.2 to 6.0”.

In the past, Flibanserin was rejected twice by the Fda because of the side effects. The first time in 2010: on that occasion, regulators said that the poor positive effects did not justify the risks, which grow when women drink alcohol or take other drugs. And again in 2013, after Sprout Pharmaceuticals had bought it from the initial developer, Boehringer Ingelheim.

The panel’s recommendation has split up women. The opposers underline how insufficient and doubtful the advantages of the pill are; in particular, they point out that the drug was originally conceived as an antidepressant. Conversely, others consider the approval as a step forward and say that would be discriminating to forbid the use of the pill: they accuse the Fda of sexism, because it has permitted the sale of male viagras, but it doesn’t want to do the same now for women.

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