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Women: Is the “Little Pink Pill” Right for You?

December 10, 2015

Men have a little blue pill to improve their sexual health, and now women have a little pink pill for the same purpose.

The “little pink pill,” known by the brand name Addyi (flibanserin), is the first FDA-approved drug designed to improve women’s libido. The drug, which gained approval this summer, became available in October — 17 years after the FDA approved Viagra.

What You Should Know

Addyi is for premenopausal women who have experienced changes in their sex drive. It works by changing levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, chemicals in the brain that send signals to other parts of the body. Dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin are all thought to play a critical role in feelings of sexual desire and arousal.

The FDA approved Addyi after it rejected the drug twice. However, it approved Addyi after recent studies showed it increased the number of positive sexual experiences in patients by about one event each month compared to a placebo drug.

Potential Side Effects of Addyi

Though many women and women’s health experts are excited about Addyi, the drug does come with certain side effects, some of which can be very serious. Some participants in the study fainted after taking the drug and others woke up disoriented the next day. Since the drug is new, it’s long-term effects also aren’t clear yet.

Since Addyi became available, several of my patients have asked about it — but more out of curiosity rather than necessity. The biggest risk with Addyi is that it can cause a drop in blood pressure. If someone takes the pill with alcohol, that drop in blood pressure can lead to dizziness or fainting the next morning. This is especially dangerous if the person plans to drive that day. Because of these side effects, the FDA is requiring doctors who prescribe the drug to warn their patients not to drink alcohol while taking it. Adverse drug interactions also are a possibility, so women should be careful about taking Addyi with other medications. Talk to your doctor about whether this pill may interfere with your current prescriptions.

Getting the “Little Pink Pill”

Addyi currently isn’t covered by insurance. Experts estimate it may cost women between $30 to $75 a month out-of-pocket. The additional expense may be worth it for some patients, but for others, different treatment options may be more suitable. These options may include estrogen therapy if the underlying cause is hormonal or counseling and certain lifestyle changes.

It’s great that women now also have a drug to improve their sexual health, but it’s important that everyone is aware of the risks and potential side effects. If you have questions about whether Addyi may be right for you, talk to your doctor or find a women’s health physician near you.