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General News    H4'ed 6/17/10

Does the Pink Viagra work?

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Despite diehard urban legends in the 1960's about Spanish Flies, "nymphomania" and the proverbial "girl on the gearshift" (who everyone swore they knew), drugs to boost women's libido are not recent. They date all the way back to Roman times when the wife of Augustus Caesar dosed her guests to liven a party and Marquis de Sade did the same, seventeen hundred years later.

Now a new female libido drug, dubbed the Pink Viagra, has husbands, boyfriends and Wall Street cheering, if not its intended patients.

On June 18 an FDA advisory committee will consider approval of flibanserin, manufactured by Germany-based Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, for "treatment of hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in premenopausal women."

Flibanserin was rolled out at the European Society for Sexual Medicine's annual meeting in Lyon, France last November as an exciting new treatment for libido impaired women. Volunteers reported the number of "satisfying sexual encounters" they had on the drug increased from 2.7 to 4.5 times a month in pooled data from placebo-controlled Phase III studies in the U.S. and Europe. Placebo worked too, with women reporting satisfying sexual experiences increased to 3.7 a month. (Evidently just thinking about sex, rather than "England," stokes desire.)

To participate in trials, women had to be "in a stable, monogamous, heterosexual relationship" for a year, free from depression and parenting, eldercare and income stress -- but who does that leave? -- and "willing to try to have sexual activity" at least once a month.

Like Pfizer's 12-year-old Viagra which was meant as an angina drug until its erectile effects appeared, flibanserin was groomed to be an antidepressant until its effect on female sexual desire surfaced during the study and trial participants didn't want to return their unused pills according to Medpage. It wasn't effective as an antidepressant despite 15 years of forced swim, "learned helplessness" and stereotactic experiments in animals

Chemically, flibanserin modulates dopamine and serotonin like other psychoactive drugs but is less like current SSRI antidepressants than older drugs like Buspar and Serzone says an article on Neuroskeptic.com. (The antidepressant, Serzone, barely used today because of liver toxicity, was linked to male and female priapism, an abnormal and painful erectile state.) Flibanserin may even share antipsychotic effects with Haldol and Zyprexa speculates a 2002 article in CNS Drug Reviews.

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)
 

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