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Aspen doctor played role in passing of ‘Pink Viagra’

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times

Women with low sex drives now have the chance to pop a pill that puts them in the mood.

In a historic ruling, the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the first medication targeting women with a low or absent sex drive.

Addyi, from Sprout Pharmaceuticals, is designed to increase sexual desire in women who suffer from hypoactive sexual desire disorder, which is the most common female sexual dysfunction and affects as many as 15 million women in the U.S. alone.

The pill already has been dubbed “Pink Viagra,” and while the concept of a female Viagra “is fun,” it’s a misnomer, said Aspen physician Alan Altman.

An expert in post-menopause and female sexual medicine, Altman has been very involved with the medication’s push for FDA approval over the years. He served as president of the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health, the largest professional organization in the world dedicated to understanding female sexual dysfunction.

“Female sexual function and dysfunction is significantly more complex than male sexual function and dysfunction,” Altman said.

There are far more physiological factors that contribute to a women’s ability to feel aroused than a man’s, he said.

“For women, the main organ involved with sexual desire is the brain. For men, it’s the genitals,” he said.

“This medication doesn’t work in the vagina or the clitoris, it works in the brain — this is why there will never be a ‘Viagra for women,’” Altman said.

However, similar to Viagra, which was approved by the FDA in 1998, Addyi is the first pill of its kind — and one that has not received FDA approval with ease.

In fact, the FDA has rejected the drug twice over the course of four years.

“They were getting a little paternalistic,” Altman said, adding that the FDA’s push back garnered political pressure from a number of groups in Washington.

Drawing a parallel to other commonly known disorders, such as depression, Altman explained that hypoactive sexual desire disorder is a chemical imbalance in the brain.

“The way the non-hormonal pill works is that it restores balance to key chemicals in the brain involved in the sexual desire response for women,” he said.

“This why is why it isn’t going to work well unless you have low or absent sexual desire,” Altman said as he pointed out that there are countless external factors that may contribute to hypoactive sexual desire disorder — including relationship problems, depression, past issues of sexual abuse and concurrent medications.

The pill is to be taken at bedtime once daily, and side effects may include dizziness, sleepiness and some nausea, Altman said.

erobbie@aspentimes.com


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