Since its launch in 1998, sildenafil citrate has rejuvenated and prolonged the sex life of thousands of men all over the world. Most commonly sold under the trade name Viagra by drug company Pfizer, the blue, diamond-shaped tablets have not only become a modern cultural icon but a cash cow for Pfizer, with almost two million tablets sold since the launch.
Now, thanks to a fortuitous discovery by German drug company Boehringer Ingelheim, women too may soon find a drug specifically designed to take care of low female sexual desire.
After years of testing and clinical trials involving 5,000 subjects, Boehringer is expected to place a drug called flibanserin for the US food and drug administration’s (FDA) approval this year. If the drug gets the green light, consumers will finally get their hands on the much-anticipated “female Viagra”.
Viagra helps men by improving blood flow to the sex organs. Flibanserin, on the other hand, works far away—in the brain. The drug is what is known as a “serotonin receptor agonist”. While it is still unclear how exactly flibanserin works, researchers believe that the drug acts as a substitute for serotonin, a substance that activates the brain’s “happy centres”. Low levels of serotonin have been found to be responsible for attacks of depression and anxiety. Flibanserin acts like a stand-in for serotonin in the brain, increasing feelings of well-being and arousal.
Indeed, it was during the hunt for a fast action anti-depressant that researchers at Boehringer developed flibanserin.
While it failed in those trials on humans, the researchers discovered that female subjects, exclusively, experienced heightened sexual arousal after doses of the substance.
While this will be a cause for celebration for many women, the drug company warns against comparing it to Viagra. In a story reported in BusinessWeek magazine, a company spokesperson said flibanserin was not “something that can be taken on a Friday for the weekend”. Instead, users are expected to show results after an extended period of medication.