Marketplace Scratch Pad

Sex and drugs

Scott Jagow Nov 13, 2009

They say too often, men think with their you-know-whats. Conversely, the key to a woman’s sex drive might be through her brain. A German drug company certainly hopes it is. Boehringer Ingelheim may have come up with a female version of Viagra.

Well, sort of. As you know, Viagra works by stimulating blood flow to the penis. This German drug, on the other hand, supposedly blunts female inhibitions. And no, it’s not vodka in a pill. More from Bloomberg:

Boehringer… was searching for a depression treatment in the 1990s when it stumbled on the compound, called flibanserin. By 2002, Boehringer found the drug wasn’t lifting patients’ mood. The company says researchers were startled when test subjects rated one measure of well-being, sexual appetite, consistently higher than the others.

After what Pfaus described as an initial period of hesitation about developing a sex pill, Boehringer decided to move forward. The company needs new drugs because it faces the loss of 1 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in annual revenue when two older medicines, Mirapex for Parkinson’s disease and Flomax to treat enlarged prostate, lose patent protection next year.

You gotta think this new drug has blockbuster potential. But there’s some debate about whether this is a medical issue or a problem that drugs aren’t going to solve. The company calls it hypoactive sexual desire disorder, or HSDD:

“This drug has the potential to finally open the door to acceptance of the idea that decreased desire can be something that involves a dysfunctional way the brain works, and not only a bad partner,” said Jim Pfaus, a neurologist at Concordia University in Montreal, who conducted early tests of the drug in rats. “Of course it’s in your head.”

But others disagree:

In 2003, a year after Boehringer started the Bouquet clinical trials, an article written by Ray Moynihan in the British Medical Journal called female sexual dysfunction “the freshest, clearest example we have” of a disease created by pharmaceutical companies to make healthy people think they need medicine.

When I first heard about this, I thought of scenarios where it could be a dangerous drug used against women. But it does take three to six weeks to take effect, so there might not be much to worry about there.

I can only imagine the marketing campaign. Remember this is the same company that brought you Flomax, the commercials that run non-stop during football games. Oxygen and Lifetime must be licking their chops.

I wonder what they’ll call this drug. “Now I’m in the Mood?”

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