Flibanserin, Or ‘Female Viagra,’ Isn’t Getting Anyone Hot And Bothered

Big surprise! So-called “female Viagra,” or flibanserin, doesn’t really work. To make matters worse, it actually makes women far too sick to even think about sex.

Female Viagra was supposed to treat low sexual desire by giving a much-needed boost to libido, but a review of studies on 6,000 people who took flibanserin revealed only a modest change, the New York Times reports.

The study found that female Viagra helped patients achieve half of one satisfying sexual encounter a month. No one really knows what that means.

The study reiterates the results of clinical trials, which convinced the Food and Drug Administration to reject female Viagra twice. The FDA likely approved flibanserin last year because of criticism that their rejection of it was sexist and not based on scientific data.

Female Viagra was first developed as an antidepressant, New York Magazine reported. Somehow, the medication warped into a treatment for post-menopausal women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). According to Reuters, the disorder effects 10 to 40 percent of ladies and is characterized by a “lack of desire or fantasies for sexual activity that isn’t caused by factors like medication, mental disorders or relationship stress.”

Flibanserin was supposed to increase arousal by manipulating brain receptors. Instead, female Viagra made many people queasy and dizzy.

While its efficacy was being debated, both public health and women’s groups pointed out that the science didn’t prove that it helped boost women’s libidos. Trials, and now this study, showed that the benefits were minor and negated by the side effects: sleepiness, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea. The study found that women were four times more likely to be sleepy and dizzy after taking it, twice as likely to be nauseous, and 60 percent more likely to be fatigued.

According to the lead author of the study, Dr. Loes Jaspers, one in three women experienced these side effects. Flibanserin also comes with a black-box warning for severe low blood pressure and fainting if the female Viagra is taken with alcohol, certain medications, or the person taking it has liver problems. The medication also interacted dangerously with Diflucan, a treatment for yeast infections.

Doctors actually require special training in order to even prescribe female Viagra.

And then there are the marginal benefits: women with HSDD are estimated to experience two or three satisfying sexual experiences a month, and Flibanserin added another 0.5 experience on average among 5,900 women.

Female Viagra is now owned by Valeant, and the company’s chief medical officer, Dr. Tage Ramakrishna, said this new study doesn’t carry as much statistical weight as randomized trials and still contends that flibanserin is helpful.

But the director of a Georgetown University group that studies the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and doctors isn’t convinced that flibanserin is worth anyone’s time.

“An additional half a satisfying sexual encounter a month — is that meaningful? I think only the women can answer that, but perhaps they already have with their lack of enthusiasm for getting prescriptions.”

Interestingly, women aren’t even trying the drug, which is marketed as Addyi. Less than 300 prescriptions of the medication are made a week, worth only $11 million per year. Valeant hoped to rake in $150 million.

Last year, Vox dispelled any hope that flibanserin would help anyone have more orgasms. The report mentioned the minimal benefits and side effects, uncovered in clinical trials. But it also noted the marketing campaign pushing the idea that a rejection of flibanserin was sexist. That argument pointed out that the FDA approved 26 drugs to treat men’s sexual dysfunction but none to treat women.

But that’s not really true, because the drugs for men treat mechanical problems like erectile dysfunction, not desire, and flibanserin’s purpose was to affect desire. Others argue that HSDD was invented by pharmaceutical companies so they could design a drug to treat it.

So does that mean ladies with low sex drive have no hope? Female Viagra will be studied more, but for now, it seems that flibanserin is a bust.

[Image via Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock]