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Can Medicine Boost Female Sex Drive?

Drugmakers are testing new drugs that may be able to produce increased sexual desire in women.

Peer Pressure

It's not farfetched to suppose that if Fred wants it more often than Louise does, he might pester her to ask her doctor about that drug in the ad on TV until she finally caves in.

If a drug for female sex drive were successful, women might feel pressure to conform to a new cultural norm. "People do now expect things that they didn't used to," Tiefer says. Take orgasms, for instance. Orgasms are divine and everyone is entitled to be as orgasmic as possible. But the ideal of being able to have routine or multiple orgasms sets up some women to feel defective if they don't. Men, too, are expected to be able to get erections no matter what. Today it would strike many people as plain weird that a man might choose to live with erectile dysfunction. Ten years ago it wouldn't have.

Louanne Cole Weston, PhD, WebMD's Sex Matters® columnist, says she thinks there has been too much hand-wringing over these kinds of questions. "I don't want to belittle women by saying, 'We're not going to give you this drug' or 'we're not going to look into this drug because we don't think you're capable of standing up to the pressures of the people in your life,'" she says.

If libido drugs don't do anything for women, despite marketing efforts, they won't take them, she argues. But she hopes that someday something that works will make it to the market and help a lot of people.

When and what that is will ultimately come down to what the studies on flibanserin and bremelanotide show and how the FDA evaluates the science. "It all depends on how scientifically rigorous they're going to be," Tiefer says.

Reviewed on March 30, 2007

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