‘Female Viagra’ may be solution for low libido in women

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In was in 2015 when the Food and Drug Administration first approved the medication flibanserin or Addyi designed to treat generalized hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in premenopausal women.  Dubbed the ‘female Viagra,’ a new review of studies has looked at how helpful the drug is in addressing this problem in women. 

What is Addyi and how does it work?

Addyi is a drug approved only for use in premenopausal women and not for postmenopausal women or for men.  It is made to help restore a lack of sexual desire in women that is causing distress and/or trouble with personal relationships.  Losing interest in sex is considered normal in women from time to time but when it becomes persistent or when a woman has HSDD then this is when Addyi may be considered. 

Even though Addyi is sometimes referred to as ‘female Viagra,’ the term is not quite accurate.  Viagra is a drug used to treat erectile dysfunction in men and works by improving blood flow to the penis.  Therefore, it mainly works on the genitals which make Addyi different since it works on a woman’s brain.

There are three brain chemicals Addyi affects – dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, all neurotransmitters.  These brain chemicals are responsible for sending signals between the brain and other parts of the body through the nervous system.  Dopamine and norepinephrine are involved with sexual excitement but serotonin contributes to sexual inhibition and may reduce sex drive.  The belief is that when these chemicals are out of balance, such as if dopamine and norepinephrine levels are too low and serotonin is too high, then a woman may experience a lack of sexual desire.

Addyi works by raising the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine while lowering serotonin helping to promote sexual interest and desire.

Side effects of Addyi might include sleepiness and dizziness but usually the drug is taken at bedtime making these effects not as harmful.  Other side effects include nausea, fatigue, insomnia and dry mouth.

Findings from new study

Data was collected on more than 2,300 premenopausal women, all who had HSDD and who participated in three 24-week studies that compared Addyi against an inactive placebo.  The Female Sexual Function Index was used to measure their response to each drug by asking them to report their sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain.

Results from the study showed that women who took a daily dose of Addyi had significant improvement in sexual desire and other areas of sexual function as assessed by the index when compared to the placebo. 

These results are encouraging and appear to be a possible means of helping women who suffer from HSDD to increase libido and improve their sex life.  Yet there are concerns that using a pill to address this problem does not get to the real issues causing a woman’s low sex drive. Other means of increasing a woman’s sex drive can include improving her eating habits, exercise, building meaningful relationships and enhancing self-esteem. 

When all of these factors are considered together along with the possible use of Addyi, it can lead to a more satisfying and fulfilled sexual life for women.