Drug May Boost Women's Sexual Desire
Study Shows Flibanserin Increases Satisfying Encounters for Women With Low Libido
WebMD News Archive
How Flibanserin Works
Exactly how flibanserin improves sexual desire isn't known for sure. "We
think it modulates neurotransmitters involved in sexual functioning," says
Michael Sand, PhD, MPH, director of clinical research and team leader,
flibanserin, for Boehringer Ingelheim.
''It interacts with [neurotransmitters] serotonin and dopamine in the
central nervous system," Thorp says.
Originally studied as an antidepressant by Boehringer Ingelheim, the drug
didn't prove effective for depression. But when researchers noticed reports of
improved sexual desire in some participants, the research changed focus.
As for critics, Thorp acknowledges that ''there are multiple criticisms [of
the studies] that are justifiable. One is the whole measurement issue and how
do you quantify an objective response? That's particularly hard when the
disorder is subjective."
He notes, too, that the placebo group also saw improvement. "There was a big
placebo effect,'' he says, noting that attention from a concerned doctor may
also contribute to improvement in the sexual functioning of women with
"The data look good," says Kathleen Segraves, PhD, associate professor of
psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and a sex
therapist who reviewed the data for WebMD. "But only clinical experience and
actual practice will reveal how clinically useful the effect is."
Case Western Reserve was one of the U.S. study sites for flibanserin, but
Segraves was not involved in the study.
The real world, she says, is different from clinical trials. For instance,
in the study, each woman kept an e-diary to assess her level of desire daily.
That exercise may have kept women focused on the problem, Segraves says, and
perhaps more motivated.
To call flibanserin the female Viagra, however, is incorrect, she says.
"Viagra is a vasodilator. It only makes the penis hard, it doesn't work on the
desire of a man. It may give him more confidence. It gives him a reliable
erection. It inflates the penis. He still needs to have desire."
The differences in the number of satisfying sexual encounters may seem
small, Segraves says. But it would probably not be considered small by the
women who have the condition, she says.