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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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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.