Nearly 20 years after Viagra hit the market, and with 26 drugs approved to treat sexual complaints in men, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally approved a drug that addresses sexual dysfunction in women. It is estimated that up to 20% of women in the U.S. suffer from hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). The fact that women have been, not under-served, but completely unserved in this area for so long is ridiculous. However, Addyi (flibanserin) is no Viagra and for many women the risks may outweigh the benefits.
Addyi is Not “Female Viagra”
Viagra (sildenafil) works by increasing blood flow to the genitals. This helps men with erectile dysfunction (ED) maintain an erection. It increases physical arousal but does not address lack of libido. Some studies have found that Viagra is also effective in women, but it is only approved for use in men. Viagra is only taken on an as-needed basis, before a sexual encounter.
Addyi works in the brain. It was originally developed as an anti-depressant Addyi increases sexual desire and works by affecting neurotransmitter receptors in the brain. It does not treat lack of arousal caused by a physical problem. Addyi must be taken daily, and does not become effective until it has been used for at least two weeks.
Women should have the right to decide for themselves whether the improvement to their quality of life outweighs the risks associated with taking Addyi, or any other drug. And that has to be an informed choice. Side effects can include:
- Low blood pressure
Other potential downsides include:
- Effectiveness is typically minimal
- You cannot drink alcohol when taking Addyi
- It is not appropriate for women with liver problems or who take certain medications
Of course, we won’t know the real risks until long after the drug becomes available. The fact that it is in a class similar to SSRIs raises the question of whether it will have similar side effects, as well.