"Female Viagra" Explained in 5 Clicks
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"Female Viagra" Explained in 5 Clicks

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If you're struggling with low sex drive, a new treatment may be able to help.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Addyi (flibanserin), the so-called “female Viagra,” in August 2015. The little pink pill purports to increase sexual desire in women, and is the first FDA-approved treatment for female sexual dysfunction. Addyi, available only by prescription, is expected to hit pharmacies in October 2015 and reportedly will cost between $30 and $70 per month under most insurance plans.

Click through to find out how Addyi works and whether it could be right for you.

 

Does it work like Viagra?

2 / 5 Does it work like Viagra?

While female Viagra is convenient shorthand, Addyi doesn’t actually work like its “counterpart” for men. Viagra treats sexual performance issues by increasing blood flow to help men get and maintain erections. Addyi works on brain chemicals to increase women’s sexual desire. And, unlike Viagra, which is taken as needed, Addyi is a one-a-day regimen.

In a trial, women taking Addyi reported between 0.5 and 1 additional satisfying sexual event per month, and also reported better scores on a sexual distress index compared with women taking a placebo.

Who should take it?

3 / 5 Who should take it?

The drug is approved for premenopausal women with a condition known as hypoactive sexual desire disorder, or HSDD. It's characterized by a low sex drive and accompanying personal distress that does not stem from other medical, medicinal or psychiatric reasons, or problems with a relationship. The type of sexual activity, the partner and the situation have no effect on desire in a woman with HSDD.

"We don’t know for sure, but the mechanism of action suggests it would probably be effective in postmenopausal women," says Sharecare's chief medical officer Keith Roach, MD. The drug has been studied in postmenopausal women with similar results, and it could be prescribed off-label for them.

What are the side effects?

4 / 5 What are the side effects?

Addyi can cause low blood pressure and fainting. These effects are magnified by alcohol, some oral contraceptives and certain antifungal medications. The medicine should be taken at bedtime in order to minimize the risk of injury associated with general sedation/sleepiness and loss of consciousness. Women taking flibanserin should not use alcohol.

Dr. Roach said about 15 percent of women experience these side effects. He added that the trial showed “that dizziness, somnolence, nausea, and fatigue are all at significantly increased rates compared with placebo,” he said.

How safe is it?

5 / 5 How safe is it?

Some critics contend that the risks outweigh the benefits. Just over half of the women in the trial said their sexual desire improved while taking the drug, but 38 percent of women taking a placebo said the same. “It’s more effective than a placebo, but not a lot,” says Roach. But he adds that a woman prescribed Addyi has a 50-50 chance of improvement, whether due to the placebo effect or not.

“I’ll prescribe the drug to an appropriate female patient who is willing to accept the risks, provided she understands them,” says Roach. He adds that because there is high demand for this treatment, "you’ll find a lot of people willing to accept even high risks of side effects.”