Female libido drug flibanserin, sold as Addyi, hits pharmacies Saturday. Photo by Iurii Kachkovskyi/Shutterstock
WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Addyi, the controversial prescription medication to treat low libido in women, hit pharmacy shelves Saturday coinciding with Sweetest Day, a holiday of romance.
Flibanserin, sold commercially as Addyi, is the first drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat premenopausal women whose low libido does not stem from a medical or psychiatric condition, but from a lack of desire called hypoactive sexual desire disorder. The once-daily, non-hormonal pill is only available with a prescription.
The drug has been dubbed the "female Viagra" but does not work in the same way. Viagra works by increasing blood flow to the male genitals. Addyi targets brain chemicals to increase desire. It includes a black-boxed warning against taking the drug while drinking alcohol or using other types of drugs. Women with liver problems also should not take the drug.
Dr. Holly Thacker from the Cleveland Clinic said Addyi "provides an additional, helpful option for women across the country who experience sexual dysfunction."
"It doesn't treat all sexual dysfunction, it won't help all women with sexual problems, but it will have a role in the therapy," Thacker said. "Just like with any medication -- adult women in conjunction with their physician can make an informed decision about whether this is an appropriate therapy for them."
Addyi was twice rejected for approval by the FDA, partially due to side effects that include nausea and fainting. Some medical experts have said the drug has not been shown to be effective.
"Not one person in the studies that have been done has actually reported an increase in sexual desire," psychotherapist Keesha Ewers, founder and chief medical officer of the Functional Sexology Institute, said. "What has been reported is a decrease in the distress that is felt about lack of sexual desire."
Cindy Whitehead, CEO of drug maker Sprout Pharmaceuticals, said, "Women are pretty clear they're not on-demand creatures. The media loves to call this female Viagra, but that's the point at which we start the real conversation on how this is different for women. Desire is a state. This goes back to making sure those brain chemicals are aligned in a way that allows desire to take hold."