An FDA Panel Just Voted in Favor of ‘Female Viagra’

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Female Sex Drug
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An advisory panel just voted to approve flibanserin, the so-called “female Viagra.” That means we’re one step closer to the first-ever FDA-approved medication designed to treat female sexual dysfunction. It’s a big deal for the twice-rejected medication, which will once again be reviewed in August by the FDA, according to a representative for Sprout Pharmaceutical, which manufactures the drug. (The agency doesn’t have to follow the committee panel’s recommendation, but it often does.) 

During today’s committee meeting, the panel was looking for evidence that flibanserin is safe for women taking antidepressants; its members also wanted to ensure that the medication doesn’t impair next-day driving. (Both of these were specific things the FDA had advised Sprout to investigate.) The committee voted 18–6 in favor of the drug, reports the Washington Post

Female Viagra” is a catchy, headline-friendly nickname, but it isn’t exactly accurate. Viagra treats sexual dysfunction in men by increasing blood flow to the genitals. Flibanserin, on the other hand, targets the frontal cortex, in particular some key neurotransmitters involved in sexual desire: By increasing the flow of dopamine and norepinephrine, flibanserin helps women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder feel turned on; at the same time, the drug decreases levels of serotonin, which is associated with sexual inhibition. 

Since 2010, the FDA has twice voted against approving the drug, saying that its risk didn’t outweigh the potential benefits. “It’s been quite a process,” Cindy Whitehead, CEO of Sprout told Science of Us. Of the women struggling with hypoactive sexual desire disorder, she said, “this is very real, what they’re dealing with, and I think that … it’s been dismissed for too long. The biology of female sexuality deserves its day.”