Women’s groups disagree about the efficacy and marketing of a controversial so-called “female viagra” drug up for approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This Thursday the Food and Drug Administration is set to once again consider whether flibanserin, a pill aimed at restoring lost libido in women, should be approved. A coalition of women’s and pharmaceutical groups that have collected over 40,000 signatures under the name Even the Score, are accusing the FDA of gender bias for approving Viagra and 25 other drugs to help men have sex, but zero for women.
Still others, including women’s groups, counter that Even the Score is just a profit-hungry pharmaceutical industry disguising itself as a fight for women’s rights. They say there’s nothing sexist about denying approval for drugs that don’t have an adequate risk-to benefit ratio, referring to flibanserin’s clinical trials, one in particular where women taking flibanserin reported having an average of 4.4 “satisfying sexual experiences” a month, compared to 3.7 for women on a placebo and 2.7 for the control group. They say those kinds of results aren’t worth the long list of side effects and that this pathologizing of women’s desire is applying a male model to female brain.
But one woman involved in the study described herself as “devastated” when the trial ended and she could no longer continue taking the drug. The whole debate is raising pressing questions about the FDA’s drug approval process, how society views women’s sexual desire, and the ethics of treating conditions with placebos.
Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League and a supporter of Even the Score, a campaign for sexual health equity that’s accusing the FDA of gender bias
Thea Cacchioni, PhD, a sociologist and Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies, University of Victoria, Canada; she testified before the FDA in the 2010 advisory hearing of flibanserin