Mon | Apr 24, 2017

‘Female Viagra’ makes comeback

Published:Sunday | June 7, 2015 | 6:00 AM
A tablet of the 'female viagra' sits on a brochure for Sprout Pharmaceuticals in the company’s Raleigh, North Carolina, headquarters.

Women suffering from low libido got some hope last week when a panel of health experts said the United States government should approve an experimental pill intended to boost sexual desire.

It is the first time a government panel has endorsed such a drug. The move surprised many experts because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has twice rejected the drug due to lacklustre effectiveness and worrisome side effects.

The FDA will make a formal decision later this summer, but many analysts say the panel's backing could clear the way for the first drug approved to treat a female sexual disorder.

Drug makers have been trying to cultivate that market since the blockbuster launch of Viagra for men in the late 1990s.

Ahead of last week's meeting, women's groups and other advocates lobbied for the pill's approval, saying women's sexual problems have been overlooked for too long by the federal government.

Here's a look at the pill flibanserin from Sprout Pharmaceuticals, which some have dubbed 'the female Viagra':

• Flibanserin acts on brain chemicals associated with mood and appetite, similar to antidepressant drugs.

• In fact, it was originally studied as a treatment for severe depression before being repurposed into a libido drug.

• It's not entirely clear why flibanserin increases sexual desire, but researchers point to its ability to increase dopamine a brain chemical associated with appetite while lowering serotonin another chemical linked with feelings of satiation.