Little Pink Pill

We’ve come a long way baby, so to speak given the advisory board to the US FDA’s recommendation to approve a “little pink pill” for low sexual desire in women. Whether or not this particular option for women will prove to send hoards of ladies back to the bedroom remains to be seen. But one thing is clear, the mere fact that this “Pink Viagra” will more than likely be approved by the US FDA sends a message to women the world over. Women matter and so does their sexual desire.

Much has been maligned about the pharmaceutical industry’s intent to find the panacea for the problems women face around sexual desire.  The sought after sex pill was thought to have been a testosterone tablet for women but that does not seem to have the muscle to lift libido for ladies.

Back in 2008-2009, I was running clinical trials at the BC Centre for Sexual Medicine where some of the pivotal trials were run that tested the benefits and risks of flibnaserin, now commonly referred to as “Pink Viagra.”  When I put an ad in the Vancouver Sun newspaper recruiting women for these research trials the hypoactive sexual desire disorder study for pre-menopausal women, the response was overwhelming as five hundred women called sheepishly confessing the same sentiment; your ad (about low sexual desire) spoke to me. 

Most of the study participants were women in their twenties and thirties in heterosexual relationships, not taking antidepressants, with no major medical problems.  Finally, somebody spoke to them about a subject with which they were all too familiar and seemingly wildly ashamed about.  Their libido was lost and they had no idea why.   Common to the flock of these damsels in distress (also inclusion criteria) was the fact that they all were in committed relationships and wanted to stay that way.  Those with other sexual dysfunction like sexual aversion disorder were eliminated during the screening process.

No longer did these women with once robust sexual desire feel alone and confused.   There was hope for happiness in the bedroom. There were many flaws with this study including some of the endpoints but perhaps by far the biggest flaw was that same sex female couples were excluded. From my clinical practice I know that women and men for that matter in same sex couples also bear the secret burden of low sexual desire.  

The response from some of the male partners was interesting as well.  One man in particular comes to mind because he feared this little pink pill might push his wife out onto the street in search of sex from anyone who walked by.  Well now that we have the results of the study, we know one additional sexual event per month was hardly something to fear.    He refused to allow her to enter the study, one sign of the control he had over her.  Neurotransmitter issues are not the only reason for low sexual desire in women, relationship woes will wither desire and rightly so.

My perception of this taboo subject was that it was quite topical at the time and when I was invited to be a guest on CKNW, the then radio host, now premier Christy Clark asked me what subject I would like to talk about. When I suggested hypoactive sexual desire disorder in women and explained why, she was all for discussing this secret shame that many women were dealing with on this otherwise business and politics popular show. 

The response on the show was colossal as well and low sexual desire in women is a subject I continue to speak about and educate on in my clinical practice, at the multitude of speaking engagements to which I am invited and of course on the CKNW Sunday Night Sex Show because it is an important health and relationship subject.

During a recent keynote presentation at a health conference, I discussed low sexual desire and so many women’s heads were shaking up and down. They knew of what I spoke.  But probably the most poignant was one thirty something married and monogamous woman who said, “I am glad to know I am normal because I am not the only one.“

Normal I asked? Is it normal to be in a sexless relationship and completely cut your partner off from a satisfying sex life? If you do not desire him, are you OK if he desires someone else to meet his biological sexual urges and drives?   Is low sexual desire something women are to accept? Do we pretend that female sexual desire lacks health benefits in terms of sleep, mood and pain?  Do we keep sexual desire tied up in this mysterious shroud of shame? I think not. 

To that end, perhaps the most potent part of the “little pink pill” is to educate women about their sexuality and that sexual desire is paramount to a healthy life and relationship.  We may have come a long way but it has taken much adieu to get here.

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