Why The New Sex Drive Pill For Women Is Not The 'Female Viagra'

Both drugs treat sexual issues, but that's where the similarities end.

08/19/2015 11:50 am ET
PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou via Getty Images


The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first prescription drug aimed at boosting women’s libido, but don't go calling the new pink pill the "female Viagra."

The agency approved Addyi, generically known as flibanserin, on Tuesday. The drug is intended to treat “generalized hypoactive sexual desire disorder” -- low sexual desire with no apparent cause -- in women who have not yet gone through menopause.

Though media outlets frequently refer to Addyi as the “female Viagra,” the two drugs actually don’t have that much in common.

Viagra does not cause a man to become sexually aroused. Instead, it works by aiding blood flow to a man’s penis, so that if he is sexually aroused, he can more easily obtain an erection.

Addyi, on the other hand, works on a woman’s brain, not her genitals. Flibanserin influences levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters associated with mood and appetite. Researchers initially developed it to be an antidepressant, but it wasn’t as effective as they’d hoped. What they did find, however, was that the drug had a tendency to increase the sex drives of some study subjects. Exactly how it enhances sexual desire “is not known,” the FDA states

Additionally, while men who take Viagra need only pop a pill shortly before having sex, women who use Addyi must be on a daily regimen of the medication.

Though some women’s groups have praised the drug’s developers for paying attention to women’s sexual issues, others have accused the pharmaceutical industry of slapping an overly simplified medical diagnoses on an issue that may have more complex psychological and societal roots.

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