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Panel rejects pill to boost female libido

Associated Press / June 19, 2010

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GAITHERSBURG, Md. — A “pink pill’’ to boost women’s sex drive remains elusive after a decade of searching by some of the world’s biggest drugmakers.

A panel of health experts yesterday rejected the latest offering submitted for federal approval: an antidepressant drug that failed to increase sexual desire in two studies.

The Food and Drug Administration’s panel of reproductive advisers voted unanimously that the benefits of the Boehringer Ingelheim pill did not outweigh side effects, including fatigue, depression, and fainting spells.

“I am convinced that women’s sexual health is important and that many women suffer from sexual dysfunction, but I’m not convinced of a clinically meaningful benefit for this drug,’’ said panelist Paula Hillard, a gynecologist from Stanford University School of Medicine.

The FDA will make its own decision on the drug in coming months, though it usually follows the advice of its panelists.

The drug flibanserin, which acts on serotonin and other brain chemicals, was originally studied as a depression therapy, but then repurposed as a libido pill after women reported unusually high levels of sexual satisfaction.

The attempt to trigger sexual interest through brain chemistry is the industry’s latest approach to find a female equivalent to the success of Pfizer’s Viagra.

Since that drug’s 1998 launch, more than two dozen experimental therapies have been studied for so-called “female sexual dysfunction,’’ a market worth an estimated $2 billion.

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