Harvard Women's Health Watch

Addyi is not a "female Viagra," but it can open an important discussion

Many of my patients, colleagues, friends, and even neighbors have asked me about the new drug flibanserin (Addyi), which the FDA recently approved for treatment of low sexual desire in women. Flibanserin has generated more questions, comments, and media inquiries for me than I've ever experienced in my 20-year career as an obstetrician/gynecologist. While there are several medications that improve sexual function in men (including Viagra, the most famous one), flibanserin is the first to be approved for that purpose in women. Here are what I consider the relevant facts about flibanserin, and what I say to my patients.

The "pink pill" works differently than the "blue pill"—Viagra.

Image: Thinkstock

It's not a "pink Viagra"

Viagra (sildenafil) treats erectile dysfunction in men by inhibiting the enzyme nitric oxide synthase to improve blood flow to the penis. In contrast, flibanserin is thought to work by increasing the release of the neuro-transmitter hormones dopamine and norepinephrine, while decreasing serotonin release in the area of the brain that regulates sexuality. Viagra is taken just before having sex, while flibanserin is taken daily. Flibanserin is approved only for premenopausal women. Its benefits are modest; it has been shown to slightly improve sexual satisfaction for some women.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »