Dr. Helen

Are Women Really Discriminated Against When it Comes to Viagra?

“I doubt it,” I thought, as I read this story from the NYT‘s on female Viagra entitled ‘Viagra for Women’ Gets Push for F.D.A. Approval:”

Is sexual desire a human right? And are women entitled to a little pink pill to help them feel it?

Those questions are being raised in a campaign that is pressing the Food and Drug Administration to approve a pill aimed at restoring lost libido in women. The campaign, backed by the drug’s developer and some women’s groups, accuses the F.D.A. of gender bias for approving Viagra and 25 other drugs to help men have sex, but none for women.

“Women have waited long enough,” the effort, known as Even the Score, says in an online petition that has gathered more than 40,000 signatures. “In 2015, gender equality should be the standard when it comes to access to treatments for sexual dysfunction.”…

“I don’t think there is anything sexist about denying approval for drugs that don’t have an adequate risk-to-benefit ratio,” said Thea Cacchioni, an assistant professor of women’s studies at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, who is writing a book about the issue called “Big Pharma, Women, and the Labor of Love…”

Dr. Goldstein said it was gender bias to categorize male sexual dysfunction as a simple physical problem and women’s as complex, psychological and unamenable to drugs. He noted that antidepressants that increase the level of serotonin in the brain can have a side effect of decreasing libido. Flibanserin does the opposite — transiently decreasing serotonin while raising levels of two other neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine.

Susan Scanlan, chairwoman of Even the Score, said the side effects of flibanserin, like sleepiness and dizziness, were not so serious. By contrast, she said, Viagra and some other drugs for men can cause blindness, penile rupture and other serious side effects.

“The implication is that men can be trusted to make a rational decision of risk versus reward and women can’t,” she said.

Is the FDA oversight discrimination against women? It could be the opposite. It could be that no one cares much about men’s health and they are expendable so side effects in men, who cares? Or It could be that Viagra is now more effective for men and worth the risk whereas for women, the risk ratio is higher. And if you want to talk discrimination, why is there no male birth control pill?