Last week, an advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration made history. Or, as the Even The Score folks have been hashtagging, Herstory.
They recommended that the FDA approve flibanserin, which is a pharmaceutical product intended to address hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). There were a number of concerns voiced, and some cautions will likely be recommended, including caution with interactions with alcohol and while driving.
Sally Greenberg, National Consumers League executive director, was quoted in The Washington Post as saying, “I think this is a huge moment for women’s sexual health, in the way that the pill was for women’s sexual health and ability to control their own destiny.” The Wall Street Journal article on the FDA panel said “… the panel’s vote marks a turning point in women’s health.”
I’m celebrating. This particular drug will not be the silver bullet for all women with HSDD, but I’m hopeful that we have turned the corner that the Wall Street Journal reporter envisioned. HSDD has been recognized as a legitimate health problem, and this panel of the FDA has accepted evidence that brain chemistry is a factor (as it is with depression and other mood disorders).
As a medical practitioner, I know that every woman is different, and no treatment will be perfect for everyone. Each woman has her own medical history, her own values, her own desires, her own trade-offs, her own attitudes toward medical treatments—and, for that matter, toward sex. Having options to choose among helps each woman to navigate challenges as she prefers.
The FDA is expected to take action on flibanserin in August. I’m hopeful that after that, I’ll have an option to offer women who have lost desire. And I’m hopeful that having seen this hurdle overcome, other researchers will add to our armorarium so we have even more choices to offer.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.
This is an issue that has brought out passionate responses from both the ‘for’ and ‘against’ on having a medication that addresses libido. And I certainly understand both sides of the issue. As a provider, who has been in the room with countless women who are anguished by this loss of libido, for themselves and their partner, I am glad to have an option to offer them. Believe me, these women have tried everything, they ‘want to want it’, they desperately want this, there is truly something in their brains that is functioning differently from most women. The side effect profile of this medication is not significantly different from the SSRIs that have been on the market for decades and prescribed to millions of people. This is one of the largest clinical trials performed, and there are many medications on the market with similar mechanisms of action, so the likelihood of unsuspected side effects forthcoming is low, but of course, not zero. With proper patient selection and monitoring (as is done with all medications) this could be so wonderful for those women and their partners who love them. This drug will be indicated in a relatively small subset of women. I have a great deal of the confidence that women and their providers will make thoughtful, intentional decisions about their health and wellness, which includes sexual health and wellness. For those of you who don’t suffer from HSDD, celebrate that fact, and for those who do, celebrate that help may be on the way!
I don’t think it is great news that there will be a drug with numerous dangers for women who are being told that there is something wrong with them. There as so many other things to try other than more prescription medications. Maybe you should read the dirty normal. It is sad that now women will be guinea pigs …