Pink pill vs. blue pill: The difference between male and female sex drugs

World Today

Illustration by Lisa Chiu with photos of flibanserin and Viagra by Associated Press/Allen G. Breed and Tim.Reckmann.

Just days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Addyi — the first prescription drug designed to boost sexual desire in women — Canadian company Valeant Pharmaceuticals announced they would be purchasing drug’s maker, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, for $1 billion. Valeant said that they expect the drug to be available in the United States sometime in the fourth quarter of 2015.

The drug is being marketed as the “female viagra” however the two drugs couldn’t be more different. The search for a pill to treat women’s sexual difficulties was pursued and later abandoned by Pfizer, Bayer, and Procter & Gamble, among others. But drugs that act on blood flow, hormones, and other biological functions all proved ineffective.

Addyi, known generically as flibanserin, is intended to treat women who report emotional stress due to a lack of libido. It’s the first drug that acts on brain chemicals that affect mood and appetite. In comparison, Viagra works by increasing blood flow, relaxing muscles in the penis to allow for a man who is already aroused to experience an erection.

Addyi and Viagra, a side-by-side comparison:

The FDA previously rejected Addyi in 2010 and 2013, due to lackluster effectiveness and side effects which can include dangerously low blood pressure and fainting, especially when combined with alcohol. The same problems can occur when taking the drug with other commonly prescribed medications, including antifungals used to treat yeast infections.

Opponents say it’s not worth the side effects. However Even the Score, a lobbying group funded by Sprout and other pharmaceutical companies, began publicizing the lack of drugs for female sexual dysfunction as a women’s rights issue last year. At an FDA meeting in June, more than 30 people called for the drug’s approval, frequently citing the campaign. They vastly outnumbered speakers who spoke in opposition to the drug.

Story by CCTV America and the Associated Press.