Health & Wellness

Libido-boosting drug for women aims to 'even the score' with Viagra

A few years into a relationship, Amanda Parrish found herself pretending to be asleep to avoid sex.

But then Parrish, a divorced mother of four, participated in a clinical trial for flibanserin, a female libido drug. After two weeks on the “little pink pill,” she was pleased to notice a difference.

“I’m like, ‘Oh my word, this drug is working,’” Parrish said in a segment that aired Tuesday on TODAY.

Her boyfriend, Ben, also saw a change. “It was like going back to what we had,” he said.

The drug has been rejected twice, and the Food and Drug Administration wanted more information. On Thursday, FDA advisers will again consider whether the “Viagra for women” should be approved to help pre-menopausal women regain their libido.

Proponents say the drug addresses low sexual desire via a nightly pill that targets chemicals in the brain, not any other organ.

In the latest clinical trial funded by the drug’s current developer, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, more than 1,000 women diagnosed with low sexual desire took the medication or a placebo for about six months.

The women on flibanserin reported improvements in sexual desire and twice as many satisfying sexual events as before, TODAY reported. And new safety studies by Sprout found the drug did not cause liver problems or sleepiness while driving, though there were side effects including nausea and fatigue.

Advocates of the drug, including its maker, have launched a campaign called Even the Score featuring a video that mocks male libido drugs and their expensive ad campaigns. The group’s website says there are 26 FDA-approved drugs to treat sexual dysfunction in men, but none for women.

"Lucky for you, you have countless medication options that will make you just as randy as a teenager,” a sultry woman says to men in the video. “Too bad your lady doesn't have any.”

Still, Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman of Georgetown University Medical Center told TODAY: “For the FDA to approve this drug would be giving in to a public relations campaign, and decisions on drug approval should be made on risks and benefits, not on public relations.”

The New York Times says the drug was rejected in the past because its side effects overshadowed its modest effectiveness.

Sprout told TODAY that it’s too soon to say how much flibanserin would cost. But if it does win FDA approval, Sprout is expected to be ony the first of many pharmaceutical companies to bring products like it to the market.

Lisa A. Flam, a regular contributor to TODAY.com, is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter.

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