Flibanserin: A Treatment For Low Sex Drive In Women?

The saga of the drug flibanserin is not front-page news right now, but it may have a big impact for post-menopausal women in the future.  Here’s some history.

In the early 2000s, drug company Boehringer Ingelheim began research on the drug as a novel, non-hormonal treatment for pre-menopausal women with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD). According to prevalent studies, about 1 in 10 women reported low sexual desire with associated distress, which may be HSDD.The neurobiological pathway of female sexual desire involves interactions among multiple neurotransmitters, sex hormones, and various psychosocial factors.

Although clinical studies at the time showed some improvement in this particular demographic, it was not great enough to merit continued research and on October 8, 2010, Boehringer Ingelheim announced it would discontinue its development of flibanserin in light of an FDA advisory panel’s recommendation not to approve it.

Fast forward to June of this year.  Drug company Sprout Pharmaceuticals confirmed that they had re-submitted flibanserin for approval.  The difference now is that Sprout has conducted clinical trials of the drug on a different population of women.  The trials (conducted between 2009 and 2012) were,  “to assess the safety and efficacy of a 24-week course of flibanserin for the treatment of Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder in naturally post-menopausal women.”

Unlike other female-oriented medications designed to alleviate the pain associated with sex due to post-menopausal symptoms, flibanserin focuses on the hard-to-hit target of increasing desire.

So now it is in the hands of the FDA to decide its fate as a treatment for women in our age demographic who may suffer from HSDD.  We’ll keep you informed!


1 Comment

  1. As a woman and a writer on sexuality for the over 50 woman, there are several things that bother me with this idea of a pill for women’s sexual desire. First is the presumption that low sex drive is a medical disorder. Women feel a lag in sexual libido for any number of reasons-stress, too many demands on their time, a bad marriage, issues around aging and menopause and an unsatisfactory sex life. Pushing pills at women may not be the answer.  There may well be hormonal, chemical issues at play for some women. But, we don’t all have problems with menopause. 

    What might work better is to help women look at their sexual relationship and see what needs to be changed. It may be a simple matter of better communication with a husband. The issue is complex and often women cannot pinpoint what the problem is or when it began. We need to change the way we approach sexuality, particularly for an aging population. If we educate people about sexuality and what to expect and we encourage conversation, women and men can begin to understand their needs and how to navigate sexual relationships.

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