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Jun. 10 2010 — 7:28 pm | 235 views | 1 recommendations | 4 comments

The Pink Viagra Debate

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about so-called “Pink Viagra”–which is actually flibanserin, a drug manufactured by the German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim–that has shown promising results regarding the treatment of hypoactive sexual desire disorder in women. HSDD is the loss of sexual thoughts, fantasies, and desire, and, I argued, this vague definition could be manipulated to encourage over-medicating.

I said this not because I don’t think HSDD is real, but because I generally avoid taking pills when I don’t have to, and encourage others to do the same. But sometimes, I need Advil. People I love very much are on Coumadin and Celexa and Lipitor and a ton of other stuff, and I’m glad, because they require it to be happy and healthy and, in some cases, to live. So if a woman is suffering from HSDD, and she believes flibanserin could help her have a better life, she should at least have it as an option.

But there’s a weird debate raging over the drug, and, as Katrina vanden Heuvel points out in the Washington Post, it’s based in some twisted sexist logic:

The assumption that pink Viagra is a scam is reactionary and, at worst, chauvinistic and cruel…There seems to be a sexual double standard at work here. Contrast the criticism of flibanserin with that leveled at Viagra upon its FDA approval a dozen years ago. In March 1998, press coverage focused far more on the drug’s implications for Pfizer’s stock price and on the parade of aging baby boomers expected to descend upon the dispensary than on the legitimacy of erectile dysfunction as a medical condition. Not so for Viagra’s new analogue, which has been covered with considerably more skepticism.

She’s right. True, we’re a more pill-conscious society now than we were in 1998, with greater concern for whole foods and natural living–as we should be. Skepticism is warranted, and right. But that still doesn’t account for the reaction to flibanserin.



May. 24 2010 — 12:06 pm | 262 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Viagra for women?

Skeletal view of flibanserin. Chemical structu...

Image via Wikipedia

Researchers have been looking for the “pink Viagra”–their cutesy term, not mine–since 1998, when the FDA approved the original erectile-dysfunction drug. Now comes this news, from the Washington Post:

A German pharmaceutical giant [Boehringer Ingelheim] wants to sell a drug with the decidedly unsexy name “flibanserin,” which has shown prowess for sparking a woman’s sexual desire by fiddling with her brain chemicals.

Even before the FDA’s Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee meets June 18 to consider the request, the prospect of the drug’s approval has triggered debate over whether the medication, like others in the pipeline, represents a long-sought step toward equity for women’s health or the latest example of the pharmaceutical industry fabricating a questionable disorder to sell unnecessary–and potentially dangerous–drugs.

This could be huge–the Post says that the U.S. market for such a drug is $2 billion. But as it also points out, the diagnosis of hypoactive sexual desire disorder–defined as a loss of sexual thoughts, fantasies, and desire–can be a blanket term that leads some women to believe they’re ill when they are not, and implies that a loss in sexual interest, even a temporary one, is a failing worth medicating.

via FDA considers endorsement of drug that some call a Viagra for women.



May. 19 2010 — 8:58 am | 118 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

Viagra can cause hearing loss

It’s already been a tough week for men, and now researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have announced that Viagra–and to a lesser extent, other erectile-dysfunction drugs–can cause long-term hearing loss.

The news isn’t exactly new. In 2007, the FDA announced changes to the labeling of erectile-dysfunction drugs–medically known as phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors–because of case studies linking them to sudden hearing loss. (They’ve also been linked to vision loss, seizures, and heart attacks, as this handy roundup from the New York Times shows.) But the UAB study, which analyzed the survey results of 11,525 men over age 40, is the first to document the correlation between PDE-5i medications and long-term loss.

The study, published yesterday in Archives of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, finds that men using PDE-5i meds were twice as likely to report hearing loss as as men who weren’t, and that the loss was most highly associated with the use of Viagra (sildenafil) as opposed to Cialis (tadalafil) or Levitra (vardenafil). Gerald McGwin, the study’s lead researcher, admitted that Cialis and Levitra’s diminished correlation could be the result of a smaller sample size for users of those drugs.

So how, exactly, do drugs intended for your penis end up harming your hearing?

“PDE-5i medications work in erectile-dysfunction patients by their ability to increase blood flow to certain tissues in the body,” McGwin says. “It has been hypothesized that they may have a similar effect on similar tissues in the ear, where an increase of blood flow could potentially cause damage leading to hearing loss.”



May. 17 2010 — 7:20 pm | 226 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Why older men sleep less

Guys, remember how well you used to sleep when you were younger? Feeling rested, seizing the day, etc.? Turns out there’s a reason that doesn’t happen as much anymore: when you’re 30, your testosterone levels begin dropping by two percent each year, and by the time you’re 50, all that diminished testosterone has affected your quality of deep sleep.

The findings come from researchers at University of Montreal, who claim that deep sleep — which accounts for 10 to 20 percent of total sleep in younger guys — decreases to five to seven percent of total sleep in 50-year-old men and a whopping zero percent in men over 60. Why? According to Zoran Sekerovic, a graduate student from the University of Montreal Department of Psychology:

With age, there is neuronal loss and the synchronization of cerebral activity isn’t as good, which is why there is a loss of deep sleep. Because deep sleep requires great synchronization. Low levels of testosterone intensify the lack of synchronization and can explain 20 percent of men’s inability to experience deep sleep.

So chalk it up to brain breakdown. Sekerovic also points out that his findings could have relevance in hormone-therapy discussions, but, as with women and their tangle of issues with estrogen therapy, he admits it wouldn’t be an easy fix. “Hormone therapy can have secondary effects,” he says. “Therefore, it will be essential to better understand the mechanisms leading to the loss of deep sleep.”



May. 13 2010 — 12:42 pm | 275 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Birth control pills = bad sex?

A new study highlighted in the New York Times, from the University Women’s Hospital of Tübingen in Germany:

Young women who rely on hormonal birth control like the pill are at significantly higher risk for sexual dysfunction than those who use nonhormonal methods, a German study suggests.

The researchers, who questioned more than 1,000 students at six German medical schools, found that one-third of them experienced one or more forms of sexual problems associated with desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction or pain. The study appeared in the May 4 issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Other studies have had similar findings, including the news that women who are on the pill perceive their partner’s scent differently than those who aren’t. I’m not sure that qualifies as dysfunction, but it might count as a “sexual problem,” particularly because smell is one of those things that determines attraction. The Times continues:

An author of the paper, Dr. Alfred O. Mück…suggested that contraceptive hormones might reduce circulating levels of testosterone, which is needed to stimulate sexual desire and regulate genital blood flow.

But, he added, “The biological mechanisms remain unclear so far.”

via Vital Signs – Use of Hormonal Birth Control Is Linked to Sexual Dysfunction – NYTimes.com.


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    I'm a Brooklyn-based writer who is facinated by the science of sex, or, to put it simply: why we do what we do when we do it. My writing on sex, health, and relationships has been published at livescience.com, maxim.com, and with the Cleveland Clinic Press.

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