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Female libido may get a big drug boost

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

The female libido boosting drug flibanserin from the German drug company Boehringer Ingelheim has just passed Phase III clinical trials. The drug affects brain chemicals, in turn increasing sexual desire.

Flibanserin has been under investigation for treatment of women suffering from hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), which often defies solution – until now. Lack of sexual desire in women is very common, but treatments have seemed to be lacking. The new drug, designed to boost female libido does not act like Viagra, but is being touted as "Viagra for women". It was initially used as an antidepressant, but it was ineffective. Flibanserin acts by stimulates one serotonin receptor in the brain and blocks a second one.

Flibanserin, during its use as an antidepressant was noticed to stimulate female libido. Reports from the Phase III clinical trial show that women enrolled in the study reported increased sexual desire and satisfaction, in addition to less worry about sexual dysfunction.

According to Elaine Jolly, a Canadian gynecologist and medical researcher overseeing the trial, "By modulating the neurotransmitter system, flibanserin may help to restore a balance between inhibitory and excitatory factors leading to a healthy sexual response.”

For the study, more than 5,000 European and American women received either doses of flibanserin ranging from 25 to 100 milligram per day or a placebo. The findings, reported today at the 12th Congress of the European Society for Sexual Medicine in Lyon, France, included only women who received the 100mg dose. Lower doses of the libido enhancing drug for women had no effect.

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According to the manufacturer,” Data from pooled, pivotal Phase III clinical trials demonstrate that flibanserin 100mg taken once daily at bedtime significantly increased the number of Satisfying Sexual Events (SSEs) and sexual desire while significantly decreasing the distress associated with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD).”

Flibanserin is touted as being able to help women suffering from low libido, sexual dysfunction, lack of sexual desire, or any number of other names associated with women not interested in having sex. Of interest, sexual dysfunction in women has been poorly defined – one of the reasons it is difficult to treat.

Women may or may not flock to boost their libido with the new drug that is not at all like Viagra that increases blood flow to the penis through an entirely different mechanism of action.

Background information for the study suggests, “Women with HSDD often feel a loss of intimacy and closeness that they used to enjoy. The condition can negatively impact a woman's life and her relationship with her partner.”

The clinical trial tracked increase in sexual desire among women, measured by an online diary. As a secondary endpoint, the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) was used to gauge the success of the drug to boost a woman’s libido, and was compared to placebo that also had a powerful effect. Interestingly, a study published in the Internal Annals of Medicine, April 2008, showed that women who were post-menopausal responded equally well to testosterone spray and placebo, reporting increased sexual desire.

The only adverse effects of the flibanserin, occurring within the first fourteen days of use, were dizziness, nausea, fatigue, somnolence and insomnia. Flibanserin was studied on pre-menopausal women, age 18 to 50, who felt more in the mood for sex after taking flibanserin. It seems that female libido may get a big drug boost - but only if women are interested. The drug to increase sexual desire in women may be available in two to three years.

This page is updated on May 12, 2013.