Here's a way to make women equal to men: Give them a really lousy aphrodisiac.
The federal Food and Drug Administration has approved "pink Viagra," a pill that's literally pink and is supposed to cure "female sexual dysfunction."
The latter term doesn't refer to anything physical; it's a ephemism for not feeling like having sex. That used to be called "Not tonight, dear–I've got a headache." But now, thanks to agitation from Even the Score, a coalition of feminist activists that includes the National Organization for Women, it's now a Very Important Gender Issue. You see, men have Viagra and Cialis, but up to now there's been nothing to get women going. As Even the Score puts it:
[W]e believe that women have the right to make their own informed choices concerning their sexual health; that gender equality should be the standard when it comes to access to treatments for sexual dysfunction; and that the approval of safe and effective treatments for women’s sexual dysfunction should be a priority for action by the FDA.
But as the Washington Post reports, leveling the sex playing field doesn't come without costs:
The approval of the controversial drug, flibanserin, which the FDA twice rejected before and now will be marketed as Addyi, comes with a series of conditions reflecting the agency’s concerns about serious side effects. These include a boxed warning that highlights the risks of low blood pressure and fainting in patients who drink alcohol while taking the drug, as well as a requirement that doctors complete a training course before being allowed to prescribe it.
What? You can't "drink alcohol while taking the drug"? I thought alcohol was how babies are made.
Supporters of the drug hailed the decision as an end to what they called “gender bias” at the FDA, giving women more choice and control over their sexual lives. Critics said the approval of what some call a “mediocre aphrodisiac” with significant side effects has now turned the normal range of women’s low sexual desire into a disease, with pharmaceutical companies only too eager to rush in….
Unlike Viagra, which was approved by the FDA in 1998 and increases blood flow to the genitals, flibanserin targets neurotransmitters in the brain. Though just how the drug boosts desire remains unknown, flibanserin affects the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, neurotransmitters that are key to sexual desire, and serotonin, which governs inhibition.
Also unlike Viagra, which is taken on an as-needed basis, flibanserin is effective only if taken every day. Because the drug can cause sleepiness, Sprout [Pharmaceuticals, Addyi's manufacturer] recommends taking it before bed.
It causes "sleepiness"? Isn't that what you don't want if you want to have sex?
The FDA rejected the drug in 2010 and in 2013, saying the risks of side effects such as nausea, dizziness, low blood pressure, fainting and sleepiness outweighed the “modest” benefit. In June, however, an FDA advisory panel voted 18 to 6 to recommend approval. That vote came after Sprout conducted additional safety testing and measured the drug’s impact on sexual desire over 28 days, not daily as in earlier studies. The FDA concluded there was a “statistically significant” improvement over a placebo.
Furthermore, according to The Consumerist, Addyi, which will cost between $300 and $400 a month without insurance, isn't even that much of an improvement over a placebo:
Addyi works on the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in the brain and not on blood flow to the genitals. It has to be taken daily, and works in a similar manner to popular antidepressants. That’s because it is one, or it was supposed to be. The first published animal studies on the drug appeared twenty years ago, but it apparently wasn’t all that promising as an antidepressant.
What it did have was a minor effect on the libido of female test subjects. Someone could sell that.
Now, The Consumerist and some anti-Pharma activists are suggesting that Even the Score isn't so much a feminist coalition but a front group organized by Sprout and other drug companies to accuse the FDA of sexism as a strategy for pressuring the agency into approving flibanserin at last. I don't know whether that's the case. But I do know that all you have to is say the words "gender bias" to rally the National Organization for Women behind a lackluster libido booster.
As for me, instead of taking an overpriced pink pill every day to get my sex drive up a little bit, I think I'll have another glass of wine.