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Boehringer Ingelheim Developing 'Female Viagra'

German firm developing 'female Viagra'  [The Day, New London, Conn.]

From Day, The (New London, CT) (November 14, 2009)

Nov. 14--Perhaps pharmaceutical firms Pfizer Inc. and Boehringer Ingelheim should go out on a date.

New York-based Pfizer, maker of the male impotency drug Viagra, had been trying for years to unlock the mysteries of female sexual desire, but failed to find a little blue pill for women and abandoned research into sexual health last year. Now, the German drug company Boehringer says it may have found the answer: a chemical shortcut that reduces female inhibitions.

Late-stage trial results for the experimental drug, called flibanserin, will be unveiled Monday at a European conference, according to a report on Bloomberg.com.

"The U.S. market for medicines to rekindle the female libido could be bigger than the $2 billion a year in U.S. sales for erectile dysfunction treatments because more women report sexual problems," Bloomberg reports.

Boehringer said last year that up to one in 10 women are suffering from "a highly prevalent, yet under-diagnosed, medical condition" called hypoactive sexual desire disorder that has been classified as a mental problem by the American Psychiatric Association. Hallmarks of the condition are "diminished feelings of sexual interest or desire, absent sexual thoughts or fantasies and lack of responsive desire that causes marked distress or interpersonal difficulties," the company said.

Only a third of female patients with the condition seek professional advice to deal with it, the drug company said.

But Bloomberg pointed out that the existence of a specific condition tied to female sexual dysfunction is not universally accepted. "Some researchers believe the social components of intercourse mean that sexual problems can't be addressed in the same way as heart failure or cancer," Bloomberg says.

Flibanserin, originally investigated as an antidepressant, apparently stimulates the pleasure centers in women's brains. As opposed to Viagra, which men can take just before sexual activity, Flibanserin takes several weeks to begin affecting women's libido, according to reports.

Despite the differences between Viagra and Flibanserin, Bloomberg said Boehringer is taking a page out of Pfizer's book when it comes to promoting its new compound, avoiding such potentially loaded words as "frigid" much as Pfizer uses the phrase "erectile dysfunction" instead of "impotence."

So far, Boehringer has tried the drug only on pre-menopausal women. Another study of post-menopausal women is currently in the recruitment stage.

"If approved, flibanserin could revolutionize the (women's sexual-dysfunction) market, which is almost completely lacking in therapies," said a report on the FierceBioTech blog Friday.

l.howard@theday.com

To see more of The Day, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.theday.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Day, New London, Conn.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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Posted: November 2009


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