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Journal: Female Sexual Dysfunction 'Excuse By Drug Firms To Sell Pills':

Female Sexual Dysfunction 'Excuse By Drug Firms To Sell Pills': Companies Accused Of Creating Market For Drugs Loss Of Libido 'Turned Into A Medical Condition'

From Guardian (UK) (October 1, 2010)

Drug companies are today accused of attempting to turn the loss of sexual desire that some women experience into a medical condition that can be treated by pills.

Although drugs, from antidepressants to variants of Viagra, have been found ineffective, the companies are charged in an article in the British Medical Journal with inappropriately trying to create a market for pills to treat a condition that is as much psychosocial as biological, and which may need the intervention of a relationship counsellor as much as a doctor.

Ray Moynihan, a journalist and lecturer at the University of Newcastle in Australia, argues in the BMJ that a variety of drug companies have tried to construct a scientific basis for medical treatment for women’s loss of libido, running surveys that purport to find that it is widespread and devising ways to diagnose the condition. Extravagant claims have been made for the numbers of women affected, says Moynihan, who carried out his research for a new book called Sex, Lies and Pharmaceuticals.

A 2005 survey funded by Pfizer, manufacturer of Viagra, concluded that a third of women in southern Europe lacked interest in sex and 40% in south-east Asia failed to reach orgasm.

But, says Moynihan, the figures are grand totals. "When you look at the proportions of women experiencing these sexual difficulties ‘frequently’, the numbers collapse."

Pfizer declined Moynihan’s request for an interview but gave him a statement saying it had "conducted a number of studies over the past 15 years designed to understand the causes and nature of FSD [female sexual dysfunction] and its impact on women".

In a commentary, Dr Sandy Goldbeck-Wood, a specialist in psychosexual medicine in Camden and Ipswich, said the loss of desire for sex made many women profoundly unhappy but it took a great deal for them to consult a doctor because of the embarrassment, shame or hopelessness they felt.

"Faced with a woman in tears whose libido has disappeared and who is terrified of losing her partner, doctors can feel immense pressure to provide an immediate, effective solution," writes Goldbeck-Wood. It is not surprising if they reach for a pill or a patch, she says.

"It is easy to see how the pressure for immediate solutions, combined with our biological bias and offers of research funding, leads to the kind of collaboration with the drug industry that has worked well for other illnesses, despite its relative inefficacy in this area."

But women should not be left without help. "Many factors can contribute to low libido, few of them treatable with drugs," she writes.

"We owe these women something more respectful than ineffective medication or patronising false reassurance."


Posted: October 2010