17 Years After Viagra, the Female Viagra May Finally Be Here

Flibanserin, a drug to treat low sexual desire in women.Allen Breed/AP

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


A contentious effort to introduce a sex-drive drug for women may be nearing a climax. After rejecting “the pink Viagra” (AKA flibanserin) twice in the past five years, a Federal Drug Administration advisory committee voted today that the the pill should be approved if measures are taken to reduce its potential side effects, such as low blood pressure and fainting.

The nonhormonal drug, developed by Sprout Pharmaceutical, is meant to be taken nightly. The company says it works by altering chemicals in the brain to increase a woman’s sexual desire (unlike Viagra, which increases blood flow to certain parts of the body). Women who took the drug in trials reported no more than one additional “sexually satisfying event” per month than women who received a placebo.

Women who took the drug in trials reported no more than one additional “sexually satisfying event” per month than women who received a placebo.

Today’s vote comes 17 years after the FDA approved Viagra, the incredibly profitable erectile dysfunction treatment. Since then, more than two dozen prescription drugs have been approved to assist with male sexual performance, but none for women.

Even the Score, a group backed by the pharmaceutical companies that developed flibanserin, says that women also suffer from sexual dysfunction and that the unwillingness to develop and approve drugs to treat it is a matter of bias. They called today’s vote a victory for gender equality. “Women with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder deserve the safety and peace of mind that comes with access to FDA-approved medical treatment options, and today we write a new chapter in the fight for equity in sexual health,” Even the Score said in a statement.

But others believe that potentially profitable drugs for a dubious disorder are being pushed with little proven effectiveness. “I don’t think there is anything sexist about denying approval for drugs that don’t have an adequate risk-to-benefit ratio,” Thea Cacchioni, a professor of women’s studies at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, told the New York Times. According to Forbes, $50 million in private investment rest on flibanserin’s approval.

The FDA is expected to come to a final decision on the drug in August.

WE'RE TAKING A SHORT BREAK…

from the big banner at the top of our pages asking for the donations that make Mother Jones' nonprofit journalism possible. But we still have upwards of $300,000 to raise by June 30, whether we get there is going to come down to the wire, and we can't afford to come up short.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please join your fellow readers who pitch in from time to time to keep our democracy-advancing, justice-seeking journalism charging hard (and to help us avoid a real budget crunch as June 30 approaches and our fiscal year ends).

payment methods

WE'RE TAKING A SHORT BREAK…

from the big banner at the top of our pages asking for the donations that make Mother Jones' nonprofit journalism possible. But we still have upwards of $300,000 to raise by June 30, whether we get there is going to come down to the wire, and we can't afford to come up short.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please join your fellow readers who pitch in from time to time to keep our democracy-advancing, justice-seeking journalism charging hard (and to help us avoid a real budget crunch as June 30 approaches and our fiscal year ends).

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate