Saturday, June 19, 2010
Ever since Viagra met blockbuster success in 1998, the drug industry has sought a similar pill for women.
Now, Boehringer Ingelheim, a German drug giant, says it has developed such a pill and is trying to persuade the FDA that its drug can help restore a depressed female sex drive. The effort has set off a debate over what constitutes a normal range of sexual desire among women, with critics saying the company is trying to turn low libido into medical pathology.
It would be the first drug aimed specifically at low sex drive in premenopausal women and includes side effects of dizziness, nausea and fatigue. The idea of women performing normal non-sexual activities like driving while experiencing potentially dangerous side effects makes it sound like the main benefit of this drug would be for men. Also objectionable is making women who already carry more than their share of life's burdens feel inadequate because their libido does not measure up to the imagined sex drives of "other women." I think we would all like to know who those other women are, and how they got so lucky. As far as I know, these libidinous populations have not been determined or at least, disclosed. Or maybe they are in protective custody.
Needless to say, the drug companies are gleefully rubbing their hands together in anticipation of raking in huge profits at least equal to those reaped by the sale of Viagra, Cialis and Levitra.
It is too easy to label women as suffering from sexual dysfunction, especially without taking into consideration other legitimate demands on their energy. The willingness and ability of their partners to arouse them should also not be ignored. Perhaps it's a generational thing, but today's postmenopausal women were often encouraged to feel generally inadequate. It's hard to imagine that the drug companies are not attempting to capitalize on such tendencies to sell their product.
Leonore Tiefer, a psychologist and professor at New York University who has researched female sexual desire for more than a decade, says Boehringer has gone too far with its publicity effort. “Women’s sex lives are often a struggle, a disappointment, an archipelago of regret,” she said. “Is there a small group of women who could benefit from medical intervention — probably.”
But she believes that if the drug were approved, “the much larger group of women without any medical reason for their sexual distress will inevitably be misinformed and misled into thinking that there is a pill that can get them the sex life they read about, the one they think everyone else is having.”
The drug companies have even come up with a name for this brand new medical malady: Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, which will doubtless soon be abbreviated to HSDD as we become more comfortable with the idea that many women are basically flawed and need medication to make them "normal." It's well known that women have a more complicated response system than men, so finding us abnormal by male standards is both impractical and stupid.
I think that inventing a drug to alleviate some of the passion-stealing concerns that consume most women might bring about an amazing recovery in sluggish female libidos. And if treatment consisted of a few weeks in Hawaii or Montego Bay, we could probably be very healthy indeed.