In August, a "Lady Viagra" pill made waves after it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. After a few months, those waves have become ripples.
The data suggests American women aren’t looking to Flibanserin, the so-called "Lady Viagra," sold under the brand name Addyi, to heat up their sex lives or make it impossible to leave their beds. However, it's also true that women are having a harder time accessing the drug than, say, men do accessing Viagra. According to doctors and healthcare analysts, as the Post-Gazette reported, Addyi’s lackluster commercial success is a product of underwhelming success in firing up desire and federal impediments.
The so-called female Viagra is the first FDA-approved drug for HSDD (hypoactive sexual desire disorder), which, research suggests, affects roughly 10 percent of American women. Some celebrated the little pink pill as a long-overdue win for gender equality. After years of watching septuagenarians schill Viagra and Cialis during commercial breaks, big pharma was finally paying attention to female sexuality. (Well, little pharma actually — the NC-based Sprout pharmaceuticals is a nugget of a drug manufacturer.) Others called bullshit on Addyi as a mediocre antidepressant rebranded to ratchet up desire after twice failing to show efficacy in clinical trials. When Addyi did manage to meet efficacy standards, it did so barely. From the start, consumer reviews have been tepid. So, it’s not surprising that women aren’t storming the Gyno for their Addyi scrips. To put it in context, in its first two months on the market, 1,000 prescriptions for Addyi have been filled. Compare that to 500,000 prescriptions filled for Viagra during its first month on the market in 1998.
However, the federal restrictions on availability also seem to be playing a role. Pharmacies and physicians, per the Post-Gazette, need to get certified before they can dole out the drug. As of December, 6,000 prescriptions had yet to be filled. So, there may be a gap between interest in the drug and ease in procuring it. Additionally, it’s estimated that only half of insurance plans cover the drug. One PA insurer, the Post-Gazette reported, said the monthly cost of Addyi, without insurance, could hit $850.
Addyi certainly isn’t Viagra, as it boosts sex drive (or claims to) by targeting brain chemicals, rather than genital blood-flow. And, it very well may be a crappy antidepressant rebranded as a crappy sex-drive drug. But, given that around 70 percent of insurance plans offer partial coverage for male erectile dysfunction drugs, women at least deserve the chance to try Addyi before it's declared a dud.