Friday, July 30, 2010

Cashing In On Female Sexual Dysfunction: The Next Myth

The world's pharmaceutical companies have been consumed by the race to find a remedy for female sexual dysfunction (FSD) ever since the late 1990s when Pfizer gained FDA approval for Viagra.

So very effective in the “treatment of erectile dysfunction in men,” Viagra has proven to be a “blockbuster” drug; a billion-dollar-generating marvel of a product! It worked. It changed lives. It was a ‘sexy drug’ in every sense of the term. It then became clear there was a great deal of money and power to be gained in the field of sexual dysfunction -- money and power that could be exponentially multiplied if the market were expanded, which it would be if pharmaceutical companies could sell drugs to women as well as men.

Vivus had a particular interest in tapping the market. In 1996, 14 months before Viagra launched, it gained FDA approval for Muse, a suppository which, when inserted into the male urethra shortly before sex, improved blood flow to the penis thus alleviating the symptoms of erectile dysfunction. Muse did an extremely good business having sales of $130 million; then Viagra launched. A year later, Muse sales plummeted to around $59 million and have dwindled ever since. Men seemed to prefer a pill over a suppository and abandoned Muse en masse.

Around the same time, Leland Wilson, President and Director of Vivus, gave a TV interview about sexual dysfunction and mentioned, in passing, that his company was working on concepts for products for FSD. The price of Vivus stock promptly skyrocketed in response. From that point on, Vivus begun working in earnest on Alista. Meanwhile, Pfizer began working hard on discovering whether Viagra might work for women as well as men, while Procter & Gamble began working on a testosterone patch called Intrinsa. Darby Stephens, Manager of Clinical Research at Vivus, estimated that at the time her company was working on Alista, some 12 pharmaceutical companies were developing alternative cures for FSD. “We are in a race to see who can be first to market,” she said.

(“The Race to Discover Viagra for Women,” The Observer, 25 April 2010).

My Perceptions on Female Sexual Dysfunction

Q - The evolution of female SEXUAL desire is crowded by myths. DO Scientists believe that women still need to `learn to lust'?

A - It is not true that women still need to ‘learn to lust,’ but it is historical fact there has been a centuries-long conspiracy that women should be kept away from their desires and that patriarchal society has subjugated itself over the feminine world by inducing some falsehoods like ‘chastity’ and that for women, sexual desire is so supressed in their individual conviction that if any woman tries to have a desire about sex or sexuality, it may be conceived as ‘dirty’ or ‘perverted’ or a ‘sin.’ As a result, patriarchal society has imposed the falsehood of a chaste woman and has made her ignore her own desires.

Q - What is the desire quotient OF THE INDIAN WOMAN?

A - I think the problem of women with sexual function is more psychological than physiological. Until now, scientists have known far too little about how a woman’s sexuality works. And yet, according to a recent study by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, nearly half of all women who participated in the studies suffer from some sexual problem; many suffered from more than one.

And it has now been proven that orgasm is not experienced by most women either in the West or in the East. Curiously, very few activists have come forward to proclaim that right for women. And it appears most medical researchers and funders of this research are also not in the mood to spend too much money trying to figure out why some women are sexually unhappy.

Q - Are many women still living in denial of their desire? What are the expressions of female desire in today's world?

A - Yes, I believe women are still living in denial of their sexual desire. Most women seldom discuss sex with their doctors. They even think not being able to experience orgasm during sexual intimacy is a normal occurrence. They are totally molded by patriarchal conspiracy where male sexuality is termed as ‘active’ while female sexuality is ‘passive.’ Here, I don’t think the situation in the West differs much from that of the East. It seems throughout the world, the sexual instinct of females is routinely suppressed.

Q - How do men perceIve female desire?

A - Not ‘men’ but the ‘economy’ and ‘industries’ are now finding a new market among women to perceive their sexual desire. But these are all only ‘money matters.’ The ‘consciousness about women’s sexual desire’ began when Procter & Gamble tried to win FDA approval for its female testosterone patch, which the company claimed could help women boost their sexual desire. Ironically, it has been proven by scientists that no single measurement of androgen hormones, like testosterone, can predict low desire. Some women with low testosterone levels did not have low desire, while some women with normal levels did.


I believe depending upon social and psychological factors and recognizing the sexual rights of women are the only way in which the problem can be solved. So, I think, it is not a for-profit ‘drug’ but a change in social attitude which can make a positive change and prove beneficial to women in solving their FSD issues.