This New Drug Looks to Improve Women's Libido

For years men have had Viagra to treat impotence, but supposedly now women also have a way to enhance their sex lives. Addyi, released in 2015, is a non-hormonal prescription pill used to treat Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD).

HSDD is characterized by low sexual desire that causes marked distress or interpersonal difficulty and is not due to a co-existing medical or psychiatric condition, problems within the relationship or the effects of a medication or other drug substance. It is diagnosed when it develops in a patient who previously had no problems with sexual desire.

In a statement released to the public after the approval of the drug, Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said, “Today’s approval provides women distressed by their low sexual desire with an approved treatment option… The FDA strives to protect and advance the health of women, and we are committed to supporting the development of safe and effective treatments for female sexual dysfunction.”

Addyi is designed to slow the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked to inhibition, and promote neurochemicals such as norepinephrine and dopamine. While initially intended to be an antidepressant, one of the major side effects was an increased libido.

Not all reviews about Addyi have been positive. If taken with alcohol, the drug can cause drops in blood pressure, dizziness or fainting. Unlike Viagra, which only needs to be taken right before a sexual encounter, Addyi must be taken daily. There is also an issue with affordability. A month’s prescription costs around $800.

Addyi is not a miracle drug. Women’s sexual problems are complicated. What Addyi has done is open a window into a new line of research for enhancing the sexual experience through neurochemistry. Other drugs are currently being developed, such as the testosterone-coated Lybrido, which contains sildenafil and claims to trigger arousal in both the brain and the body. Bremelanotide is another drug that is only taken immediately before a woman wants to have sex and uses a synthetic hormone to activate neurological receptors linked to sexual response.

While these drugs may be an answer to many women’s prayers for reclaiming a fulfilling, satisfying sex life, some say that complications labeled as a woman’s sexual desire “problems” aren’t really issues that can be fixed with a drug.