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May 24th, 2010
12:38 PM ET

Libido booster for women to get FDA consideration

By John Bonifield
CNN Medical Producer

When men show up at the pharmacy to pick up prescription drugs for sex problems, they have several options. Viagra. Cialis. Levitra. That hasn’t been the case for women with similar problems. But a Food and Drug Administration panel next month will debate approving a pill that could bring on the demise of this double standard. The drug, called flibanserin, has been developed to boost women’s libido.

“The most common sexual problem for women is low desire,” says Sheryl Kingsberg, a clinical psychologist with University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio. “These women are really distressed by it.”

The German drug company Boehringer Ingelheim developed flibanserin as an antidepressant. The drug didn’t work as a treatment for depression, but it did produce a surprising libido-enhancing side effect in some women.

“There are millions of women who have a sexual life that is problematic for them,” says Michael Sand, the company’s director of clinical research on flibanserin.

According Sand, women taking flibanserin experience an increase in sexual desire and satisfying sexual activity and a decrease in emotional distress.

If the FDA approves flibanserin, Kingsberg says, the drug will be a game changer.

“If nothing else, it's going to open the door to women knowing that they're entitled to good quality sexual health. That it's not just for men anymore,” says Kingsberg, who has been a paid consultant for the company and for other developers of libido-enhancing drugs.

Boehringer Ingelheim plans to discuss its findings on flibanserin with the FDA on June 18.

Next week on CNN, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen will explore female libido and what’s available now to help restore a lagging sex drive.

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soundoff (161 Responses)
  1. andre guay md

    Flibanserin will initiate treatments for women as viagra did for men. Decreased libido is the most common sexual complaint of women and the causes are many from relationship problems to busy schedules to hormonal deficiencies. It is also a common side effects of medications for anxiety and depression. The drug, flibanserin, would be helpful when women cannot stop offending drugs or replace hormone deficiencies. It is not a miracle cure for everything but it can help, and hopefully will enhance further research in this field

    May 26, 2010 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Paul

    I think some people need to reconsider what makes a happy marriage/person. It is our culture that tells us sex is important for happiness. If divorces are occurring because of low sex drive from a partner, those marriages didn't have a solid foundation to begin with. Marriage is based on love and companionship and family – not physical satisfaction. Low sex drive is not a bad thing or the end to personal "completeness"; it's how some individuals react to it that make it a problem for our marriages and families.

    I am a male who has little to no sex drive because of unrelated medications I take. I don't consider this a problem for myself or my relationship. There are nearly an infinite number of things this world has to offer to make a person or couple happy other than sex. If a low sex drive is causing personal or relationship problems, I suggest stepping out of the bedroom and finding new things to do with your partner! This is a good thing!

    If this medication has the side effect of increasing the sex drive in women, then good for the women who want it. I support that. There are many people who would appreciate this side effect. What I am suggesting is that our drug companies don't look for these benefits by devoting time and money into research for a drug that is based on personal preference (woman or man) when what we need is more time and money for drugs that are desperately needed (for people whose lives are actually at risk). As a research scientist, I would much rather devote resources to helping people overcome potentially fatal diseases where time is often a crucial factor than seeing our time diverted to medical needs that are not nearly as critical. This is not about gender at all, everyone deserves to be happy, and if benefits like this pop up – that's great. But let's try and focus on the medical problems that really need our attention and realize that happiness does not need to include sex as much as many of us think it does.

    May 26, 2010 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. KSV

    Can't wait for it to get here ;)

    May 26, 2010 at 19:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. KSV

    Maybe it will contribute for men to have less affairs....but i don't hold my breath for this drug to get approved in this rather prudish socierty.

    May 26, 2010 at 19:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. David Ridge

    I applaud the women who recognize their low libido is a problem for their husbands and relationships, so they are seeking out solutions. Too many women lose interest in sex and couldn't care less about their husbands.

    Women, you should know this, a survey on the MarriedManSex website reports over 85% of married men answering the survey indicated having a good sex life is "very" or "extremely" important to having a happy marriage. Just because men aren't always begging for it doesn't mean it isn't important to them. You can pretend sex isn't important to him, but chances are it is. If you unilaterally remove sex from the marriage you get what you get be it a divorce with all the fighting and crap that goes with it, one night stands, prostitutes or ongoing affairs. If you choose to ignore your low libido and your marriage suffers you only have yourself to blame.

    Is this strictly a males perspective? If you think so please read "For Women Only" by doctors Jennifer and Laura Berman. These women will tell it to you straight like how women suffering from low libido tend to blame their husbands when in fact it may be related to their own physiological changes, which can be improved.

    Problems with low female libido has been around a long time but research in this field is relatively new. The drug companies will, if nothing else, push this topic, which is a good thing. We need to be more open about this problem and all the serious side effects which go WELL BEYOND a lack of fun in the bedroom. FSD breaks up families and leads to the recruitment of more young women to the sex trades. These are two serious issues I would expect most women to be concerned about.

    May 26, 2010 at 20:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Paul

    This medical condition is nothing new and certainly requires our attention, but it is an exaggeration to say that it goes 'well beyond' the bedroom. Recruiting women to the sex trades is an awful thing that has been going on for literally thousands of years across the planet, it is hardly a new phenomenon caused by FSD. There are many factors that contribute to this terrible industry – I highly doubt it is primarily comprised of women (or men) that have FSD or related conditions.

    To the survey mentioned by D. Ridge – this is unsubstantiated. "A good sex life" is hardly important for a happy and strong marriage. While physical intimacy is important, there are far more critical contributors to long, healthy marriages. There are many happy couples that rarely have sex or don't even have it at all. To say that a low libido "breaks up families" is a bit far fetched. There are clearly other factors that contribute to divorce and family disconnection.

    I agree that this is a serious and under reported matter that effects both women and men. The fact that new medications are being probed into is without a doubt a benefit to many. But let's not forget that sex is not as important to marriages (and our daily lives) as many of think it is. Happiness with our partners CAN be achieved with a low emphasis on sex. It simply requires walking out of the bedroom and spending time with our loved ones.

    May 31, 2010 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Valerie

    This is a wonderful bit of news! I hope that it is approved! I know there are many people who just think that more foreplay will do the trick, but it doesn't for many women. Men who do the dishes or put the kids to bed endear themselves to their women, but that doesn't cause us to want sex more! I am crazy about my husband, but I have no sex drive.... never did. I thought after 3 kids that this was the way I am supposed to feel. After therapy I know that it is not, but there isn't much that can be done to correct it. I hope that this drug can be approved, and at this point in my life, I'll take whatever side-effects come about becuase of it, as long as I can please my man and can finally enjoy sex!

    May 31, 2010 at 20:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. sonia

    This product does what it says it does. A warm rush and heightened sensitivity to the clitoral region. I also put a little on my husbands private areas and it drives him "CRAZY". What a great product. Every woman needs to be using this!

    June 3, 2010 at 08:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. voiceofreason

    So there seems to be something glaringly obvious here, and a few people posting are aware enough to have noticed it ... biologically, sex is about procreation. Once you have the children, especially for women, whose survival instinct includes awareness of how much personal bandwidth it takes to care for a child, does it not make evolutionary sense that the body would say WHOA. Enough kids! If the evolutionary priority of the species is for the children to live well, it makes sense to have only a few. If the evolutionary priority is to have more children at all costs, then it would make sense for the sex drive to stay constant. Perhaps are we in the process of evolving past the idea that more kids is better?

    Can it really be that simple? Are we drugging something that is normal and even progressive from an evolutionary standpoint?

    Another difficult question ... if a woman doesn't think she needs a man to be her breadwinner, as is the case with an increasing number of women these days, could it be that she becomes less willing to do something she doesn't want to do to keep someone else happy? ie, when her survival and the survival of her existing children is not linked to sex, does it just become less important to her?

    I have no answers but I wonder if there is not a larger issue here ... put another way, are we really sure that people – not just women – who have lost interest in sex are dysfunctional and unhealthy?

    June 18, 2010 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Debbie

    Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) is a real, BIOLOGICAL condition. It is NOT a result of being over-worked, under-loved, religiously prudish, unhappy in marriage, or dissatisfied with your partner (I am none of those). It is NOT the result of taking other pills (I take NONE and never have) or a hormone imbalance (I've been tested). It is NOT in my head, is NOT because I am lesbian, is NOT because I am too old (late 30's), and is NOT because I am with the wrong man (first and only marriage to the man of my dreams – over 15 years now).

    Low libido ISN'T a problem if it doesn't bother you and your partner. HSDD cannot be diagnosed without a feeling of loss over the low libido and a yearning for "the way things used to be."

    I encourage EVERY WOMAN who has had or is having this problem to keep pushing for more research into female biology and the causes of and solutions for HSDD. And of your OB/GYN or any doctor tells you, "It's all in your head!" – go find another doctor!

    June 20, 2010 at 03:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Women Sex Pills

    Hmmmm....... Not Easy to satisfy a women ???????
    but the above disscussion was quite good..

    December 22, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.