One of this week’s major news items in the world of pharma is the less-than-enthusiastic response of an FDA panel to Boehringer-Ingelheim’s experimental “sexual desire for women” pill, flibanserin.
I believe the quest for a “female Viagra” (an inaccurate parallel, by the way) is fundamentally misguided. Here’s why:
There’s a big difference between sexual function and sexual desire. Viagra does something that a pill can, in fact, do – impacts a physiological process. Erectile dysfunction is, in some cases, a medical problem that can be addressed with a medical solution.
But sex is not purely physical. And sexual desire is not some abstraction or isolated function that can be fixed by some sort of medical booster.
- a loving relationship
- a climate of trust and freedom
- confidence and a sense of self-esteem
- personal attractiveness (and attracted-to-ness) on multiple levels
- hormonal fluctuations/levels
- physical function that allows fulfilling intercourse
And, in fact, are we even addressing the right question anyway with these proposed treatments? Should our focus be on creating/boosting a physiological desire for sex, or on making better relationships? Physiological aspects are a component of sexual desire…but are we going to keep medicalizing some things that are, to a large extent, simply part of a normal aging process?
I realize that there’s no money to be made by drug companies on the latter, but frankly, I’m forced to conclude that the whole exercise is a futile pursuit of profit at the expense of a healthier focus on the better relationships that will lead to better sex.
A pill is not a substitute for the genuine work of nurturing one’s mate so that a steady desire to please and be one with each other is a natural outgrowth. Viagra can make some things grow that forgot how. But I seriously doubt that any female Viagra will grow something as multi-faceted as sexual desire. Let’s go about curing real diseases.
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