Let’s Stop Calling It ‘Female Viagra,’ Okay?

By
Female Sex Drug
Photo: Allen Breed/© Corbis. All Rights Reserved.

You likely know flibanserin, the drug intended to treat sexual dysfunction in women, by its nickname, “female Viagra.” It’s a headline-friendly moniker, and it’s frankly a lot easier to pronounce than a weird, pharmaceutical company word like flibanserin. But the nickname thing, argues Dr. Aaron E. Carroll in a new video for his Healthcare Triage series, is a problem. Actual Viagra — as in, the pill for dudes that treats erectile dysfunction — is almost nothing like flibanserin, and the fact that people keep calling it “female Viagra” is just making an already-confusing matter even more confusing. 

Both drugs target sexual dysfunction, true, but Viagra does this by increasing blood flow to the penis, allowing an already-turned-on guy to achieve an erection; flibanserin, on the other hand, targets the brain, creating an increase in neurotransmitters that stimulate desire and a decrease in the ones that do the opposite. Plus, Viagra is taken on an as-needed basis, whereas flibanserin is a daily pill. And there are also pretty remarkable discrepancies in how effective the two drugs are — more on that in the video. 

Flibanserin is up for FDA approval later this summer, and if it does get the official okay, it’ll no doubt get some kind of commercial-friendly brand name, anyway (the non-brand-name for Viagra itself, after all, is sildenafil). Although, by then, the name “female Viagra” may have already stuck.