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The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug designed to boost a woman's libido. Today's decision is being hailed by some as a long-sought victory for women's health. But as NPR's Rob Stein reports, this little pink pill is being condemned by others as irresponsible.
ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Some people call it the pink Viagra. Officially, it's been called flibanserin, but now that it's been approved, the first drug to treat female sexual problems is getting a new name - Addyi.
CYNTHIA WHITEHEAD: Addyi is a game changer, in my opinion, for women's health.
STEIN: Cynthia Whitehead heads Sprout Pharmaceuticals, which makes Addyi.
WHITEHEAD: For decades, millions of women have been waiting for a medical solution to restore their sexual desire. And I'm thrilled that today the decision is finally being turned over to women and their health care providers regarding their sexual health.
STEIN: The FDA had rejected the drug twice before, saying there wasn't enough evidence it worked and there were worries about its safety. That led to charges that the FDA was being sexist by making the drug jump through more hoops than Viagra and other drugs for male sexual problems. Terry O'Neill heads the National Organization for Women.
TERRY O'NEILL: I think that we live in a culture that does not value women's sexual pleasure. Nobody should really care about women's sexual pleasure. What we care about is men's sexual pleasure. Women's not supposed to have sexual pleasure.
STEIN: The company finally convinced the FDA by doing more studies it said proved the drug can safely boost a woman's sex drive, enabling them to have more satisfying sexual experiences. But the FDA's decision to approve Addyi is being denounced by other women's health advocates. They say Addyi really doesn't work very well, if at all, and it can cause troubling side effects. Some women's blood pressure drops so low they faint. Others wake up so groggy the morning after it could be dangerous for them to drive to work. Critics also worry about how Addyi works. It alters the levels of three key brain chemicals. Cindy Pearson is with the National Women's Health Network.
CINDY PEARSON: Women, to have any chance of benefit from this drug, they're going to have to take it every day for months on end - years, I guess. And we just don't know what the long-term effects will be of changing brain chemistry in this way.
STEIN: The FDA is requiring the company to take several steps to address some of the safety concerns. For example, women will be warned not to use Addyi while drinking alcohol. It will be available by prescription beginning October 17. Rob Stein, NPR News.
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