Science of Poly

The Other Pill

I was listening to the Diane Reame show awhile back and heard a fascinating, yet slightly disturbing, debate over the drug fibanserin, also known as female Viagra. The drug has been rejected by the FDA on multiple occasions because of possible side effects such as fainting and nausea. Supporters of the drug believe the FDA is dragging their feet unnecessarily and are portraying this as a women’s rights issue. Why do men have access to drugs that increase libido while women do not? However, by making this a feminist issue, supporters of the drug seem to be overlooking some troubling issues, such as said side effects and whether or not it is even effective.

The problem: female hypoactive sexual desire disorder

A study conducted in 2002 reported that up to one-third of women suffer from hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). Essentially, they lose all desire for sexual activity and stop fantasizing about sex. This causes emotional problems ranging from personal distress to relationship issues.

There are several reasons women develop HSDD.

  • Stage in menstrual cycle
  • Hormonal contraceptives
  • Postpartum states and lactation
  • Ooopherectomy and hysterectomy
  • Perimenopausal and postmenopausal states

Available treatments for HSDD include therapy, lifestyle changes, or switching medications whose side effects include low libido. Men who have a low libido can take a little pill and be ready to go. They actually have their choice of 26 different medications. Fibanserin is the first female equivalent. Some women claim that there is a gender inequality issue at play here. Women should also have equal access to treatment for HSDD and approving fibanserin would be an important step in that direction.

Some feminists argue that without medical treatment, a woman’s only option is to continue having what is called mercy sex to please their partner or not have sex at all.

The side effects of fibanserin

The FDA reports that the reason they have repeatedly rejected the drug is because of the known side effects. In a recent study, 24 percent of subjects experienced at least one of the following symptoms within 24 hours of taking the drug versus only 9 percent of subjects who had taken a placebo.

  • Depression
  • Sedation
  • Fatigue
  • Circulatory collapse
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting

Dr. Fugh-Berman of Georgetown University likened the effects of the pills to four alcoholic beverages. Speaking of alcoholic beverages, drinking while on fibanserin or combining it with common medications like birth control and migraine medicine can increase the likelihood of adverse affects.

Seriously? A drug that makes you feel intoxicated is the answer to a woman’s low libido?

Worth it?

You might be thinking, what is the big deal? Every medication out there has a list of possible side effects a mile long. If the drug actually works, people can choose for themselves if the side effects are worth it. If your insurance covers it, at the very least it will be cheaper than several cocktails at the bar.

In clinical trials, there was only a 10 percent difference between women who had taken a placebo and those who had been administered the actual drug. In other words, fibanserin is about as effective as the candy marked with an my teachers in grade school passed out before exams to increase smartness.

There are a few woman who report that they had remarkable results with fibanserin and have reverted back their previous symptoms since the clinical trial was over. They said it genuinely improved their relationship and overall livelihood. Is this enough evidence to spring this new magic pill on the masses?

Even the Score is a campaign supporting the FDA approval of fibanserin. They have an online petition with over 60,000 signatures so far. Their website has excellent information about HSDD and the prevalence of male prescriptions for said condition and lack thereof for women. However, the results of the fibanserin clinical trials were no where to be seen. The concept that any drug is better than none is disturbing to say the least.

Equality for equality’s sake

The fact that men have 26 different medications to choose from to treat HSDD and women have none does not seem like a good enough reason to approve a drug that has negative side effects and little in the way of actual results. Instead of wasting time pushing for the approval of fibanserin, perhaps efforts could be better spent calling for more research to produce a medication that will actually address the issue.

Also, many researchers have clearly stated that medicating HSDD is not the optimal solution. The causes behind HSDD are often complex and diagnosing it can be difficult. Some women miraculously find they are cured of HSDD when they leave a partner they have been unhappy with for some time, indicating they probably did not actually have HSDD to begin with. Clearly a pill is not always the solution.

Men can take a pill and get it up and women cannot, but that is not what this argument is about. Touting feminism to get this drug approved without ensuring it is a good option for women is not helping anyone. More awareness about the issue and the available solutions are more important than a quick fix that is only 10 percent more effective than a placebo.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic! Feel free to comment below or on my Facebook!

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