"Pink Pill" for Women Moves Closer to Approval

Thumbnail image for research_icon.jpgThe long-awaited "female Viagra" could be on its way soon thanks to an important decision last week by an FDA advisory committee. The committee voted 18-6 to recommend that the FDA approve the drug flibanserin for the treatment of sexual dysfunction in premenopausal women.

The approval is a major victory for the drug's maker, Sprout Pharmaceuticals. In 2010 the FDA committee unanimously vetoed its approval, and Sprout filed an appeal. 

Sprout is not the only pharmaceutical company benefiting from the decision; shares of Palatin Technologies, which is working on a drug similar to flibanserin, also skyrocketed. 

The search for the elusive "pink pill" has been a long one -- because women's sexual response is governed by different physiological and psychological mechanisms than men's, treatment for female sexual dysfunction is much more complex. Unlike Viagra, whose primary effects are focused on blood circulation in the genitalia, flibanserin affects the nervous system and causes changes in the balance of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. In fact, it was originally investigated as an antidepressant. 

Unlike past contenders for the "female Viagra" title, flibanserin seems like it could be the real deal, and the vote for its approval is being hailed as a milestone by advocates of women's sexual health equity, such as Even the Score. Supporters say that the FDA has had a double standard for sexual dysfunction treatments for men and women, and the vote for the drug's approval represents major progress.