Harvard Health Letter

Has the new sexual desire drug panned out?

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Flibanserin is the first treatment of its kind. But it comes with a steep price tag and severe health risks.

It's now six months since the FDA approved flibanserin (Addyi), which is the first medication for sexual desire disorders. The drug was hailed as a "female Viagra," but is it living up to the hype? "It's not the solution we were hoping for," says Dr. Hope Ricciotti, editor in chief of Harvard Women's Health Watch and an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School.

About the drug

Flibanserin has been shown to modestly improve sexual function—10% compared with placebo—among premenopausal women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), a severe lack of interest in sex. Flibanserin is different from sildenafil (Viagra) for men, which is taken on demand (just before sex) and acts by improving blood flow to the penis. Flibanserin must be taken daily, and it targets the brain area that regulates sexuality. Flibanserin has the potential for serious side effects, including very low blood pressure, fainting, and nausea. These risks increase and become even more severe if a woman drinks alcohol or is taking birth control pills.

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