The Future of Female Orgasm: Pink Pill Uses Neurochemistry To Bring Women to Bliss
For women, could achieving orgasm become as easy as popping a pill?
Betting on Viagra’s overwhelming success helping men with erectile dysfunction, scientists have been busy concocting a thrill pill for women. Capitalizing on recent discoveries in neurochemistry and pleasure centers in the brain, this new medicine is poised to increase desire in women by focusing on familiar chemicals, including dopamine and serotonin.
In theory, it could have a huge impact on women’s sexual satisfaction and on how some women may experience orgasm in the near future.
First, there’s no shortage of women who might want to use it: 43% of women suffer sexual problems like low libido, vaginal dryness, difficulty achieving orgasm, or pain during sex.
For most of them, this can cause emotional distress linked to identity, confidence, and relationships. For more than half a century, the drug industry has struggled to come up with a drug that could increase arousal in women—until last week.
On August 18, after two rebuttals, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Flibanserin, much to the excitement of potentially hundreds of millions of women affected by low sexual desire. Marketed as Addyi, the drug, which will be available by October 17, has already been dubbed the “Viagra for women.”
Is the hype justified?
Judging by the media coverage alone, the future is looking pretty bright for the women who need a little help to turn on the heat.
Sprout Pharmaceuticals, which developed Addyi, boasts that it is the “first-ever FDA-approved treatment for women’s most common form of sexual dysfunction”. It is also the only medicinal solution available at the moment.
Addyi is a once-daily, non-hormonal pill for the treatment of hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in premenopausal women, a condition characterized by absence of sexual thoughts, fantasies, responsiveness, and willingness to engage in sexual activity.
While some women live perfectly happy without sex, Addyi is designed for the women who suffer major personal and relationship distress as a result from their low libido.
How Addyi works
But don’t let the media hype fool you: Addyi differs considerably from Viagra. First, its effectiveness appears to be subpar from the little blue pill. While Viagra works 100% of the time, only 1 in 10 women are going to benefit from Addyi. The second difference is, in the way it works. Viagra increases blood flow to the penis, whereas Flibanserin works on neurotransmitters in the brain, almost like antidepressants.
However, even the FDA admits that “the mechanism by which the drug improves sexual desire and related distress is not known.”
Lastly, unlike Viagra, which you pop right before getting into action and show immediate results, Addyi is a long-term drug that has to be taken daily, not just when you want to want to have some fun. It takes about 40 days to notice any results, with peak effects reported after eight weeks. It should also be noted that neither Addyi nor Viagra are indicated to enhance sexual performance and will not make you a better lover.
Most importantly, both have a long list of side effects.
The pink pill comes with a list of warnings
If you are considering bringing Addyi to the bedroom, be warned that it isn’t without risks.
As a matter of fact, 11.4% of the patients treated with Addyi reported dizziness (Placebo 2.2%), somnolence (Addyi 11.2%; Placebo 2.9%), nausea (Addyi 10.4%; Placebo 3.9%), and fatigue (Addyi 9.2%; Placebo 5.5%).
If you’re the kind of woman who likes to drink a bottle of wine before getting intimate, you might want to consider finding another way to get aroused. Addyi requires complete abstinence from alcohol while on the medicine.
Considering that a Gallup poll recently showed that 64 % of women drink on a regular basis, it is not far-fetched to assume that most women taking Addyi would be tempted to indulge in booze anyway.
But that wouldn’t be so smart: Taking alcohol while on the medication is no laughing matter and results in a drop of blood pressure, causing women to faint.
Things are so serious that the FDA. has ordered Sprout Pharmaceuticals to conduct three additional studies on the interaction of Addyi with alcohol. The agency also requires both doctors and pharmacists to go through an online certification process to be allowed to prescribe or dispense Addyi.
Addyi is certainly not a panacea, and it’s not for everyone. For many women who have tried everything and whose lack of desire is causing distress, it may however be a solution, but one that may do more harm than expected.
Many are quick to point out that the impending purchase of Sprout Pharmaceuticals by Valeant for $1 billion in cash means that the focus in is more in generating a quick return on investment than changing the lives of women, no matter how “passionate about women’s sexual health” the drug developer claims to be.
For the women who were waiting to have their own “female Viagra,” the complexity, mixed results, and risks associated with Addyi are disappointing.
And judging by the fact that taking the drug involves some major lifestyle changes, scientists are skeptical that it can help a significant number of women.
What’s next for female orgasm?
Addyi may not be the cure-all for every women. However, its merits are highlighting the complexity of women’s desire, and hopefully will incentivize the research community to attempt to augment arousal.
One of its limits is that the female arousal is more than a chemical process. Studies have proven that a combination of seemingly trivial factors are at play. Environmental triggers, diet, depression, stress, fatigue, and hormone imbalance are some common elements that may negatively impact a woman’s sexual drive. Overthinking the problem may also worsen it, and communicating about it can trigger positive results. We’ve only uncovered a fraction of the brain’s pleasure pathways and how to properly stimulate them.
While pushing pills on patients has never been an appropriate first line of treatment, the most exciting part of the future is the tools that shift the focus on the fun, adventurous, and experimental aspects of sex.
The next generation of sex toys, sexbots, and even remotely-controlled spinal cords simulators will enable women to masturbate freely, rediscover their body, and perhaps find ways to intensify their pleasure.
Combined with libido enhancing pills, these technologies may push the limits of orgasm even further, allowing women to experience longer, more intense sensations.
In short, there have never been so many options for Eve to live a sexually satisfying life, and the future seems to hold even more surprises.
What has your experience been with medicinal libido boosters? Do you believe that Addyi, for all its flaws, is worth a try?
Image source: Butz.2013