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“Female Viagra” Approved by FDA

“Female Viagra” Approved by FDA

Most of us will have heard of Viagra, which is often prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction and help men enjoy a happy and healthy “love” life again. “But what of the female equivalent?” ask women’s rights activists.

It’s been something that pharmaceutical companies have been trying to tackle for some years. And now, a drug that has twice been rejected in the past few of years has finally been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the US.

Flibanserin – which has been dubbed the “Female Viagra” – will be used to treat the low libido of premenopausal women, after doctors have rules out diagnoses such as relationship problems or depression.

The drug, developed by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, comes in the form of a pill that would have to be taken every day, although it doesn’t start taking effect for a couple of weeks. Originally created to treat depression, Flibanserin works by targetting two neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine, in the brain, in the hope of revving up the libido.

Dopamine, which you might have known, plays a role in reward-motivated behaviour, with the level of the chemical increasing with most types of rewards. By controlling the brain’s pleasure and reward centres when triggering the dopamine neurotransmitter, a person’s libido could be improved.

Norepinephrine is responsible for concentration, so it helps to control our attention and responses to things in our environment. Targetting this neurotransmitter could help direct the patient’s attention to their partner when becoming intimate.

Viagra is used to treat erectile dysfunction

So, even though Flibanserin is being called the “Female Viagra”, it doesn’t actually work in the same way. Viagra, which has been available since 1998, controls blood flow to the genitals, so while it does not affect the patient’s sexual desire, it does help with erectile dysfunction.

However, Flibanserin wasn’t actually found to improve sexual desire during clinical trials. Instead, it helped to increase the number of times the patient had a “satisfying sexual episode” in a month.

Trial participants reported having between 0.5 and one more “satisfying” event in that time. Now, we know that this doesn’t sound like very much. But as Dr Julia Heiman from Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute pointed out: “Even modest results can make a lot of difference when you are at a certain point in the clinical problem.”

Flibanserin has gotten its approval because it’s been backed by the FDA’s experts. “It is clear to me that there were very consistent benefits in measures we understand for some portion of women,” explained Dr Kevin Weinfurt, an advisory committee member.

But the approval comes with the condition that some of the drug’s possible side effects are addressed. And now, you’ll find out why.

Patients treated with the medication can experience fainting or drowsiness, and there are concern that these side effects could cause further problems, such as when driving. On top of this, the side effects are exacerbated by alcohol, and because the pills have to be taken every day to be effective, drinking alcohol is a big “no-no”.

But there is another drug currently being worked on to help boost the female libido. Palatin Technologies Inc, another pharmaceutical company, is developing a drug called Bremelanotide, which will also treat the low libido of female patients. As you might imagine, after the news of Flibanserin being approved, shares in Bremelanotide have jumped up considerably.

Bremelanotide will work in the same was as Flibanserin, but instead of being administered as a daily pill, the patient will only have to have an injection as and when it’s required.

There might be some of you who are thinking that the side effects of Flibanserin are a little too concerning. But what should really be taken away from this story is that there are solutions and treatments out there – they just need to be developed.

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