Women who have lost their sex drive now have a little pink pill to help them.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved flibanserin, brand name Addyi, for the treatment of sexual dysfunction in premenopausal women.
A 2002 study found that up to one-third of adult women might experience hypoactive sexual desire disorder, a technical term for when women lack sexual desire or fantasy.
Some experts say that for women, the cure for low libido is more likely to be found in their brains than in a bottle.
“Women’s sexuality is very complicated. It’s not a matter of just taking that pill, by the way, and then all of a sudden the lights go on,” said Judy Kuriansky, a clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist. “You have to feel good about your body. You have to feel good about yourself. You have to feel the guy really loves you…It’s complex. It’s not the same as a man taking a pill.”
Addyi is frequently referred to as “female Viagra” because it’s a pill for sexual dysfunction in women. However, experts say it’s a misnomer to describe it as such since it works in a distinctly different way to target the brain.
Viagra treats erectile dysfunction, a physical problem, and does not induce sexual desire. Addyi works on the central nervous system, which is why it’s in the same category as an antidepressant.
Another difference is that men take Viagra as needed before a sexual encounter, and women take Addyi once every night.
In clinical trials, women taking the drug experienced a 37 percent increase in sexual desire, according to Sprout Pharmaceuticals, which makes the drug.
There’s no doubt that sex drugs for men have been a boon for the pharmaceutical industry. The FDA approved Viagra in 1998. And last year, the drug earned more than $1.6 billion for Pfizer. But drug companies have struggled to come up with the right formula for women.
In June, an advisory committee recommended the drug for approval after two previous failed attempts to do so that cited concerns about side effects. At the time, Dr. Margery Gass, a sexual dysfunction expert at Cleveland Clinic, told CNN she was elated that the drug was one step closer to becoming available to women. “I think women are going to be very appreciative of having something they can try for this problem,” she said.