flibanserin female viagra

flibanserin female viagraNews outlets are abuzz with a new pharmaceutical breakthrough, the so-called miracle pill, flibanserin. The media has dubbed it “Viagra for women.” It was approved by the FDA in late August to treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder/HSDD in women and will be sold under the brand name Addyi starting in October. As soon as news of the drug’s approval hit, countless articles popped up singing its praises–“Viagra has been available for 17 years, it’s about time people with clitorses have a similar option!” That sentiment, however, is a bit misleading.

Is Flibanserin like Viagra?

Nope, not at all. These drugs are two very different animals. Medications like Viagra or Cialis are vasodilators that treat erectile dysfunction. In other words, they get blood pumping to the right places so the penis becomes erect. They don’t work on the brain to create desire for sex or enhance pleasure. Remember, just because someone has an erection, that doesn’t necessarily mean their libido is also revving full steam. These drugs are also commonly called “weekend pills” meaning, you can pop just one and have an immediate effect.

Flibanserin, on the other hand, wasn’t designed to pump blood to the genitals like pills for erectile dysfunction. This is a psychoactive drug that works in the brain to increase sexual desire. The medical abstracts tell us, “Flibanserin works by correcting an imbalance of the levels of the neurotransmitters that affect sexual desire. More specifically, Flibanserin increases dopamine and norepinephrine, both responsible for sexual excitement, and decreases serotonin, responsible for sexual inhibition.” In fact, Flibanserin was originally developed as an antidepressant that is in the same class as Wellbutrin. It was only after researchers noted some women reporting increased sexual desire they switched the focus of their research to sexual dysfunction in women.

This medication is approved for premenopausal women who show symptoms of hypoactive sexual desire disorder/HSDD. “People with HSDD are uninterested in sex regardless of mood or occasion, capped off with a heavy dose of distress and anxiety over doing the deed. Most importantly, their problem exists in the absence of any other notable culprits — psychiatric problems, for example, or drug side effects, or an inattentive partner.”

HSDD is said to affect 10% of women, however, based on anecdotal evidence many of us may argue that seems a little low.

Flibanserin also has quite a few side effects including low blood pressure, dizziness and fainting, dry mouth, nausea, and a serious interaction with alcohol. The drug also cannot be taken by people on hormonal birth control.

Lastly, this is no weekend pill like Viagra. Flibanserin needs to be taken daily for about 3 months before brain chemistry pathways are affected enough to modestly improve sexual desire in some people.  It needs to be taken regularly after that to maintain it’s effectiveness. Basically, once you’re on it, you need to commit to it for the long haul.

Hmm, that’s a lot of “ifs” and side effects. And what’s this about “some people” and “modestly?”

It turns out this little pink answer to women’s sexual dysfunction many not be an answer for the majority of women with low libido. According to the FDA between 8-13% of women taking it will average 0.5 more “sexual satisfying events” per month. Ouch. That’s it?

Flibanserin for sexual dysfunctionAlthough, the price for brand name Addyi hasn’t been determined, the CEO of Sprout Pharmaceuticals speculates the cost will be similar to erectile dysfunction medications which run about $500 per month. For those with insurance coverage, that could translate to a copay somewhere in the neighborhood of $75.

That’s a lot of money, time, and risk of potential side effects for something that may only help a handful of people get a tiny bit of better sex.

 Is there a better answer?

Yes! While flibanserin may be a godsend for the small minority of people it works for, if I were playing odds in Vegas, I’d bet elsewhere. My recommendation is to try less invasive and more reliable solutions first before turning to a drug like flibanserin.

Much of the work I do centers around one reoccurring theme: “How do I put the spark back in the bedroom? My partner and I don’t have sex as often as we used to and when we do it’s not as exciting. How do we fix this?”

It’s normal that if we keep doing the same thing with the same person over and over for it to eventually become predictable and boring. Sexual dissatisfaction in long term relationships is very common and often not the result of medical dysfunction. It’s also something we can easily overcome if we have the right skills and resources. One of the most important things we can do to reinvigorate our sex lives is to try new things and learn to communicate better with our partners about our desires and fantasies.

My recommendation is to take that $500 a month and instead of spending it on a medication as a first option, spend it on things like date nights, sex toys, experimenting with BDSM gear, taking couples classes, buying books about sex, or private sex coaching/therapy instead. You just may discover that a little bit of novelty and a different approach to sex will net you better results than the latest “miracle pill.”

P.S. If you’re not sure where to start, start right here! Browse the rest of sunnymegatron.com for sex tips, toy recommendations, activities you can try with your partner, links to sex advice youtube videos and a lot more great free resources.

P.S.S I also highly recommend reading this article about Flibanserin and the concept of responsive desire— enlightening! Then check out Emily Nagoski’s book, Come as you Are ;)

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