Tuesday, June 1, 2010


In a post earlier today, Elizabeth encouraged readers to sign a petition to
This is a petition to advocate against FDA approval for Flibanserin, a so-called ‘female Viagra’ recently produced by the drug company Boehringer Ingelheim. It is extremely important that the FDA does not approve Flibanserin,

This petition is written by the New View Campagin.

On their website, they say:
Please go to Change.org and look for the Low Sexual Desire petition and sign it and circulate it to others. ASAP, please. We will take these petitions to the June 18 Flibanserin hearing.

I've been following the news surrounding this drug for a while, and there is much to be troubled about. Neuroskeptic has a good post about it One pill makes your libido larger:
Flibanserin was originally developed as an antidepressant, but in clinical trials against depression it reportedly failed to perform better than placebo. The standard for getting approved as an antidepressant is low, so this is quite an achievement.

After an a review of the relevant scientific information, Neuroskeptic suggests how it works:
It's obvious from the side effects data that this drug is a sedative - it makes you tired and sleepy. The animal data confirm this. It's much more likely to put you to sleep than it is to make you enjoy sex in any given month. Off the top of my head, I suspect its sedative properties are a result of its 5HT2A antagonism.

Any sedative can increase sexual desire, as anyone who has ever been to a bar will know. So whether this drug actually has an aphrodisiac effect, as opposed to just being a sleeping pill, is anyone's guess. To find out, you'd need to compare it to a sleeping pill, say, Valium. Or a couple of glasses of wine. Until someone does that, we don't know if this drug is destined to be the next big thing or a big disappointment.

Cory Silverberg reports on the effect size:
Women taking the drug also reported more "sexually satisfying events" than women taking the placebo. The increase in satisfying events was statistically significant, but it's worth considering the actual numbers. According to the aforementioned corporate press release women taking the drug had 1.2 more satisfying sexual events over 24 weeks compared to women taking a placebo who had 0.9 more satisfying events. That's 1.2 more sexual encounters they enjoyed over a six month period.

It doesn't look like this drug is going to do much, but it seems that everyone watching knows has strong reason to believe that, if approved by the FDA, there will be massive "educational campaigns" about how oh-so-distressing a problem lack of interest in and how oh-so-widespread it is. But you begin to think that the purpose is to create distress about lack of interest in sex.

A confession: There are a number of reasons that I am opposed to Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (or Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder.) But my biggest concern is that if a drug for HSDD is ever approved, there will be massive attempts to create distress surrounding low sexual desire. Conceptually, these diagnoses make no senses, and I feel that the asexual community is in a unique position to bring to the fore these problems and to create more reasoned and more nuanced discourse surrounding low/absent sexual desire.


carolyn said...


What is your opinion on a situation in which the said patient has a desire to regain this libido but is symptomatically inhibited (i.e. reduction in, but not loss of, sexual desire) as an implication of another medical disorder and/or medication? I understand the negative implications of this medication for use in identifying asexuals (as if asexuality were a disease!?). By all means, sex is not a necessity. However, with individuals for whom a sexual libido is necessary (i.e. those with a desire to reproduce but without the presence of necessary physical function - excitement upon stimulation), could this medication be beneficial? Are there better alternatives to it? In signing this petition, I think it's important for everyone to be aware of the ethical implications associated in both asexual and non-asexual communities, regardless of orientation.


ACH said...

I think that people trying to get help regarding lack/loss of sexual desire is perfectly legitimate. In fact, the main people behind this petition are sex therapists and sex educators. One of their big concerns is that by promoting drugs that barely do anything (positive), people will be less inclined to get the kind of help that might actually be useful to them. (i.e. often loss of sexual desire stems from relationship problems are being too stressed out or too busy, etc. There are solutions to these, but it's not pharmocological.)

The negative consequences of this being passed are considerable. The benefits are negligible. Except to the company making the drug.