"Viagra for women" may come with risks, despite approval

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Flibanserin, a libido enhancer for women, has been approved by the FDA with extreme restrictions.

Called “Pink Viagra” by some people, scientists believe the drug increases sex drive in women by decreasing serotonin levels while increasing dopamine in the brain.

Associate Professor in Gynecology at UBC Lori Brotto has been following the FDA ruling closely and says the drug comes with some serious risks, especially with alcohol.

“What happens with alcohol is it leads them to have low blood pressure syncope, which is fainting,” she tells Vancity Buzz.

“In their study, they had eight people with serious, adverse reactions to Flibanserin, and one person had to be hospitalized.”

She adds this could be particularly dangerous for some women with low libido, as many may rely on alcohol to relax and get in the mood.

Many groups have accused the FDA of sexism because of their hesitancy to approve the one drug for women when so many libido enhancers exist for men, but Brotto doesn’t think that’s the case.

“I totally disagree with that. When you look at the 26 libido enhancing drugs approved for men, none of them are brain acting medications, so the bar is set higher for [Flibanserin] than even Viagra, which has just a peripheral effect.”

She does add, however, that defining a “normal” range of libido for women is subjective.

“That begs this bigger question, is there a problem with saying that desire needs to fall within this specific range and that everything that falls outside this range isn’t normal? It’s a very tricky question.”

The approval won with a vote of 18 people on the panel in favour and six against. Brotto says it’ll be at least a few months before we see Flibanserin hitting pharmacies.

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Lauren Sundstrom Lauren is a Staff Writer and Projects Assistant at Vancity Buzz. She is a graduate of BCIT's Broadcast and Online Journalism program. She loves reporting on breaking news and lifestyle content. If you feel like you have a story that needs to be told, fire her a tweet.
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