New drug boosts women's sex drive

Researchers are hailing a new drug called flibanserin as a possible remedy for sexual dysfunction in women.

Researchers are hailing a new drug called flibanserin as a possible remedy for sexual dysfunction in women.

Originally created to treat women suffering from depression, the pill was later found to increase the number of sexual encounters and overall sexual satisfaction among women who have hypoactive sexual desire disorder.

HSDD is a controversial dysfunction that not everyone in the medical field agrees exists. Those diagnosed with it, however, are said to experience "diminished feelings of sexual interest or desire that causes marked distress."

Over 1,000 pre-menopausal women from across the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe were included in the clinical trial funded by German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim. 

The study found women who took 100 milligrams of flibanserin each day experienced an increased libido after four weeks.

Participants also reported nearly doubling the number of sexual events, which included sexual intercourse and masturbation, from about two a month to just under five by the end of the trial, said principal investigator John Thorpe.

Compared with placebos

Researchers used data from each patient and compared them with those taking placebos.

"We asked women to count the number of sexual encounters using an electronic diary and discovered there was an increased number of those per month," said Thorpe.

The so far promising benefits of the drug have some in the media calling the drug a female version of Viagra, the popular erectile dysfunction medicine.

Although both drugs have been proven to improve an individual's sexual desire, the similarities end there.

Sildenafil citrate, or the little blue pill as Viagra is known, relies on increased blood flow to a man's genitalia to encourage arousal.

Flibanserin influences the pleasure centres in the brain to increase libido, said Elaine Jolly, medical director of Shirley E. Greenberg Women's Health Centre, part of the Ottawa Hospital, and one of the researchers in the clinical trials.

The study found that by "modulating these neurotransmitter systems, flibanserin may help to restore a balance between inhibitory and excitatory factors, leading to a healthy sexual response," Jolly said in a company press release.

Dr. Donna Stewart, however, cautioned that this new drug will not necessarily resolve some women's sex issues.

The University of Toronto professor hasn't seen the results of the study but knows that HSDD is a complicated condition and says researchers should take into consideration more than just biology.

"The women who I've encountered often have to take care of the kids, make dinner, go to work and at the end of the day are too tired to feel sexy," she said. "Pharmaceutical companies need to look at the social factors that can affect women too."

The company hopes further trials and government consent will allow them to soon sell the drug to the public, said Derek O'Toole, Boehringer Ingelheim's director of corporate communications.

"We do intend to move ahead with approval."