After several failed attempts by other pharmaceutical companies to “fix” the female sex drive, Sprout Pharmaceuticals has finally got their new pill, flibanserin approved by the FDA. As a smart marketing strategy, flibanserin has been called “the female Viagra” and has been marketed as a treatment for hypoactive sexual desire disorder. As a woman, wife, mother and psychologist (all roles that affect my views on female sexuality), I strongly disagree with the FDA approval and here are five reasons why:
- There is no correct measurement for a normal level of sexual interest. “Normal” is all relative and in relation to a partner’s level of interest. Two people that are content with having sex once per month are a perfect match. If one wants sex once per month, and the other one wants it five times per week, then the partner with a higher level of interest will put pressure on the partner with the lower level, creating dissatisfaction. This common relationship dynamic may erroneously create the belief of a false diagnosis such as hypoactive sexual desire.
- Viagra works instantaneously; flibanserin does not. Women would have to take flibanserin daily and some may only see an effect until 4-8 weeks later. It’s also not that effective. Women who took the pill reported an average of 4.4 satisfying sexual sessions per month, as compared to 3.7 sessions in the placebo group and 2.7 sessions prior to participation in the study.
- Flibanserin has severe side effects. A failed antidepressant, flibanserin affects the central nervous system and its neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin. Women in the clinical trial that took the drug had twice the number of adverse effects as compared to the placebo group. Adverse effects include somnolence, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, upper respiratory tract infection, and fatal hypotension when combined with alcohol. Mice data actually showed a significant increase in mammary tumours.
In addition, any drug that works by increasing dopamine (pleasure/reward system) has the potential for addiction and depression. The brain stops working hard to produce dopamine if extra dopamine is created by a prescribed drug or cocaine for example (the brain doesn’t really know the difference). When you stop taking the drug, the dopamine system crashes for a while; it takes about 30 days for the brain to start working on producing dopamine without the extra help. During that time, it’s very difficult for people to get pleasure out of activities and they often go back to taking the drug, hence the cycle of relapse.
- Women have been competing with men on many levels for many years: the right to vote, the right to drive, better pay and accommodations in the workplace. However, this fight does not make sense. We are willing to medicate ourselves so we can have more sex, even if we don’t want to ( low sex desire). But we want to have as much sex as men do, because men need us to have more sex. Or, because we are entitled to as much pleasure as men have… because that’s what men have been telling us. I know I am going in circles here, but that’s because none of this makes sense. Bottom line is that if you really want more sex, just have more sex. You don’t need a pill for it. But if you don’t want it, stop apologising; there is nothing wrong with you!
- Of course, as a couples’ therapist, I know that a discrepancy in terms on sexual desire can lead to problems in a marriage. For that, I wrote about easy behavioural solutions in “My Spouse Wants More Sex Than Me.” In addition, there are hundreds of good sex therapy resources out there that would help with that. I can guarantee you that reading some of those romance novels with vampires with a six-pack on the cover are a whole lot more effective and safer than taking a pill. To sum this up, I would like to quote Dr Adriane Fugh-Berman from Georgetown University Medical Centre: “Flibanserin is a classic marketing technique. First create the problem, and then sell the solution.” Women, be aware!
Ruxandra LeMay is a licensed psychologist with an interest in couples’ therapy, parenting, addiction, anxiety, and mood disorder issues. She is the author of My Spouse Wants More Sex Than Me: the 2-Minute Solution For a Happier Marriage available on Amazon. She shares easy and practical solutions for a balanced life. You can follow her on Twitter @drruxlemay