November 30, 2021

V is for victory for pink Viagra

This week the FDA approved the controversial drug Addyi, aka “pink Viagra”. This wonder drug is supposed to be a treatment for a condition whose latest name is “hypoactive sexual desire disorder”. It has also been dubbed “female sexual dysfunction” and “female sexual arousal disorder”. Its manufacturer claims that 1 in 10 women sufffer from HSDD. But critics say that drug companies are exploiting women’s anxieties. 

“Approval of Addyi could see widespread overprescribing of a drug with marginal benefits and real safety concerns,” says Ray Moynihan, a campaigner against the medicalisation of normal human behaviour. One of the most trenchant critics of the medicalization of women’s sexual issues is Leonore Tiefer, a psychologist at New York University School of Medicine. She suspects that demand for the drug has been manufactured: 

“People fed a myth that sex is ‘natural’—that is, a matter of automatic and unlearned biological function—at the same time as they expect high levels of performance and enduring pleasure, are likely to look for simple solutions. This sets the stage for disease mongering, a process that encourages the conversion of socially created anxiety into medical diagnoses suitable for pharmacological treatment.”

Has the cause of women’s rights taken a big step forward, as the manufacturer alleges, or are women going to be drawn even further into the nets of a pharmaceutical company whose sales pitch is that happiness depends on regular consumption of its product? What do you think? 

Michael Cook
A boon for women or a textbook example of medicalization?
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