Critics Of 'Female Viagra' Lybrido Fear Creating Sexually Aggressive Women

'Female Viagra" Has Some Worried
Some researchers working on a drug to treat low libido in women wonder about the repercussions of altering the dynamic of human sexuality. Creative Commons

Critics say the rise of "female Viagra" may change family and society irrevocably as women find treatment for chronically low libido, in both mind and body.

More than the introduction of the oral contraceptive pill to U.S. consumers in 1960, the promise of reversing a low sexual drive in women — which describes 43 percent of women, according to the American Medical Association — has Puritans and sexual conservatives worried. As work continues on "Lybrido," some researchers wonder about the repercussions of such dramatic alterations to human sexuality, and whether increasing sex drive may bring men and women together, and apart, and back together again.

Under development by Emotional Brain, a company based in the Netherlands and the United States, the drug may be available to consumers within three years, depending on regulator approval.

"More than one adviser to the industry told me that companies worried about the prospect that their study results would be too strong, that the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] would reject an application out of concern that a chemical would lead to female excesses, crazed binges of infidelity, societal splintering," reporter Daniel Bergner wrote this week in The New York Times.

With huge profit potential, Lybrido enhances a woman's physiological sexual response by increasing lubrication and blood flow in the genitals. Unlike male versions, however, the drug also stimulates the body's largest sex organ — the brain. The drug includes the anti-anxiety medication buspirone, which works by raising levels of the hormone serotonin.

Such a mechanism would treat the psychological aspect of low libido, which accounts for some 80 percent of the condition in women, according to Dr. Richard Muraga of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Aside from perceived quality of marriage and sexual partners, other non-physiological causes of low libido in women derive from changing hormonal levels with aging or medical conditions such as diabetes.

The company just completed a trial of the drug in 200 women in the U.S., which researchers describe as "very, very promising." Company founder Adriaan Tuiten, whose personal experience with heartbreak inspired his research, said women in the study reported greater frequency of sex with an easier time in achieving orgasm. Side effects included headaches and flushing of the face or neck.

Yet, however honorable treating an important part of the human condition, wariness of nymphomania continues to be a part of the discussion, Bergner reports. "You want your effects to be good but not too good," Andrew Goldstein, who is conducting the U.S. study, told Bergner. "There was a lot of discussion about it by the experts in the room ... the need to show that you're not turning women into nymphomaniacs. There's a bias against — a fear of creating the sexually aggressive woman."

However, most researchers interviewed about the coming new drug acknowledged the folly of framing the issue in Victorian conservatism, given the central importance of sex to the human psyche, for both men and women.

The pill may be available as soon as 2016.

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