I guess we can look forward to a new pharmacological trade name appearing in our spam folders in the near future. A failed antidepressant, flibanserin will soon enter clinical trials in the UK to determine whether it’s safe to be marketed as the Female Viagra, accompanied by pointed questions from sexual health experts as to whether there’s really any genuine need for it:
Doctors involved in the study said the drug may prove to be an effective treatment for low libido, a problem they estimate affects between 9% and 26% of women, depending on their age and whether they have been through the menopause.
The drug has proved controversial among sex researchers. Some argue pharmaceutical companies are exaggerating the number of women affected by low libido to expand their market, and are pushing a pill that will not deal with psychological issues that might put someone off sex, such as poor body image or stress.
With the hopefully obvious caveat that I’m not a woman, I’m siding with the skeptics on this one. Viagra solves a, er, mechanical problem that prevents men from having sex, whereas flibanserin appears to be psychological in effect from the details described – a ‘randiness’ pill, to put it crudely.
Personally, I’m all for personal pharmacological freedom – if there’s a pill out there that does something positive for you, then who are you harming other than yourself? But I’m not sure that that a lack of libido in women is a pathological problem in the same way as erectile dysfunction, and this has all the hallmarks of Big Pharma rolling out another “lifestyle” drug designed to cure something that isn’t really an illness. [image by Felixe]
I remain surprised that libido suppressants aren’t so readily available as their opposites, though. If there’s a market for chemicals to switch on a certain body response, surely there’s going to be one for chemicals to switch them off? One might argue in response that libido suppressants could be easily misused, given to people who neither wanted or needed to take them… to which I’d respond that the same surely applies to flibanserin and Viagra.