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US authorities approve first 'female viagra'

Medicine for sexual problems has usually been aimed at men.

Now the first drug aimed at women with a low sexual desire has been approved by US health regulators.

It has been described as female Viagra though it works in a very different way to the iconic Pfizer drug. This drug works on the brain rather than the genitals.

The US Food and Drug Administration said the pill (coloured pink, obviously) will be sold under the brand name Addyi.

It will only be available through certified and specially-trained healthcare professionals and pharmacies due to its safety issues. 

Yes, the drug comes with a warning about potentially dangerous side effects like low blood pressure and fainting — especially when taken with alcohol.

The drug is primarily targeted at pre-menopausal women whose lack of sexual desire has been a cause of distress.

The condition is known as Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD). The New York Times reported that about one in 10 of women suffer from HSDD

Women who took Addyi in a clinical study had an increase of about one sexually satisfying event per month compared with those taking a placebo. Advocates claim that increase is meaningful.

Critics, though, say the small benefit is outweighed by the drug’s risks.

The National Consumers League said in a statement: "This is the biggest breakthrough in women's sexual health since the advent of 'the pill' for contraception... It validates (and) legitimises female sexuality as an important component of health."

However, not everyone is pleased.

PHOTO: REUTERS

An American consumer watchdog group, Public Citizen, predicted that Addyi would be pulled from the market within a few years because of "serious dangers to women, with little benefit".

Critics have also expressed displeasure with the way Addyi conducted their campaign.

They maintain that the pharmaceutical company, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, took advantage of the women's movement to pressure the authorities.

Some believe the issue of HSDD is not so simple that it can be solved with a pill.

The drug was previously rejected twice. It was only approved after an advisory panel concluded in June that it should be approved with strict measures in place to ensure patients are fully aware of the risks.

Addyi will come with a prominent “boxed warning” about side effects.

The people at risk of side effects include those with liver impairment and those who take Addyi with alcohol or with certain types of  medicines that include certain steroids.

Source: Reuters, New York Times, Wired

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