In August, the FDA approved Addyi, the first drug authorized to treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), or lack of libido. As the first such pharmaceutical designed for women, the press dubbed it Female Viagra — incorrectly, since Viagra and its cohort address the physical issue of erectile dysfunction and are taken as needed. Addyi, or flibanserin, tweaks the brain’s mix of neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, must be taken daily and can take two months to fully kick in.
Unfortunately, the results are, um, anticlimactic. Relative to the placebo, only an additional 10 percent of women in trials had a marked response: hardly one more sexually satisfying event per month. “Not very many, in light of all of the significant side effects,” worries Lori Brotto, a University of British Columbia sex researcher and a leading HSDD expert. Alcohol exacerbates these side effects, including severely low blood pressure and loss of consciousness.
And since women with conditions that often accompany HSDD, like depression, were excluded from the trial, Brotto notes that Addyi’s impact on them is still unknown. Still, she believes the drug might benefit some of the roughly 10 percent of women with HSDD. The critiques of its effectiveness and side effects have triggered important discussions in the field about desire and what drives it. “I think that’s a very good thing,” Brotto says.