The marketing people--excuse me, scientists--from the German drug giant Boehringer-Ingelheim will soon be presenting their new panty-dropping pill to the FDA. The pill is called flibanserin.
America's media remains clueless, as they keep referring to it as the "pink Viagra." Viagra works below the belt to help the penis have more of the chemicals it needs to get hard. It doesn't concern itself with whether a man wants to have sex or not. The German panty-dropping pill works very differently. It assumes the woman's pelvic plumbing is just fine. Its job is to turn her feeling of "ho-hum" into "I've gotta have it," although its effects are much more subtle and it's not going to dramatically change anyone's sex life. Unlike Viagra, the women needs to take it every day of every month, and unlike Viagra, flibanserin operates on the woman's brain and could potentially impact her thought processes.
As for the hurdles Boehringer-Ingelheim has to clear with their new panty-dropping pill, I will focus on two areas: Placebo Effects and College Coeds.
PLACEBO EFFECTS. It's the darndest thing about sex, but sugar pills tend to be incredibly effective in curing what ails you. If you tell someone with sexual issues that the sugar pill you are about to give them might actually be the drug of their dreams, the chances are good they will report that the pill increased their sexual satisfaction, at least while the study is still going on.
This will be one of the first things that the German giant's marketing people--uh, scientists--will need to convince the FDA of: that their new pill will cause more panties to drop than sugar pills. Naturally, they won't ask the obvious questions that you or I might, such as: how does it compare to a vacation when you are working a fulltime job and raising kids, or to having friendly conversations and fun when that's been missing from your relationship, or to having a new lover when your partner feels like an old friend or roommate. How does it compare to a few sessions of couples therapy? And if only 1% or 2% of women with low desire actually need to take a pill for it, how do you know which ones?
I could go on and on about the scientific rigor needed to prove whether flibanserin actually works and for whom. Mercifully, I'll just say that the FDA is no stranger to companies using creative methodologies in an attempt to prove that their product achieves statistical significance.
COLLEGE COEDS: Equally as important as the placebo issue--and this is one where I feel that Boehringer-Ingelheim should have their genitals held to the fire--is in proving that flibanserin is safe when surreptitiously dropped into a young woman's beer or soda at a college fraternity party.
This was never a concern about Viagra, given that most young men have boners that work better than their brains. However, I believe that regardless of whether flibanserin actually works or not, it will likely share the date-rape-drug throne with Ambien. As a result, it better be safe when given to a woman who already has high levels of alcohol in her system, or when it's slipped into the beverage of a woman who is diabetic, stoned or is taking prescription medications.
Perhaps providing flibanserin in patches rather than pills would be wise, given how patches probably float in beer better than pills. (This would assume flibanserin can be delivered transdermally.) Either way, it would be pure insanity to not assume that spiking drinks or nachos at college parties will be an anticipated abuse of this prescription drug, regardless of how slow-acting it might be.
As for my own history with Boehringer-Ingelheim, in late 2008 I was contacted by their manager of regional medicine "to talk about potential areas of educational and scientific collaboration." This went nowhere fast.
The Boehringer-Ingelheim manager said she wanted "to exchange scientific and disease-specific, (rather than product-focused) information." If applied to flibanserin, this kind of approach would pose another hurdle for Boehringer-Ingelheim, as it begs the question of whether Boehringer-Ingelheim believes that female sexual desire should be regarded as a disease. If so, a woman who wants sex with her partner is disease free, but if she's lost her desire for him, she needs to take a pill.
So the question would be, how often is loss of desire like a disease which has a physiological cause, and how often is it situational, where it might be due to stress, overwork, boredom, money issues, or a lack of communication and romance in the relationship? You can be sure Boehringer-Ingelheim or their drug reps will market flibanserin in such a way that every woman who has stopped feeling sexually attracted to her partner will feel she needs a prescription for it, so it better make sense for every woman whether the cause of her low desire is physiological or situational.
On the brighter side, I do have my own marketing plan for flibanserin. I think Boehringer-Ingelheim should make flibanserin in three different strengths: Flibanserin-Light, Flibanserin-Regular and Flibanserin-Super:
"FLIBANSERIN-LIGHT will increase your chances of getting a hand job by 7% more than placebo, and 3% more than a fun evening together that includes a nice dinner and lots of conversation."
"FLIBANSERIN-REGULAR will increase your chances of getting a blow job by 3% more than placebo, and 1% more than a fun evening together that includes a nice dinner and lots of conversation."
"FLIBANSERIN-SUPER will increase your chances of getting vaginal intercourse by 8% more than placebo, and 2% more than a fun evening together that includes a nice dinner and lots of conversation."
I'd also make sure that every ad for flibanserin would include a pair of panties that appeared as though they had been tossed there by a woman in the throes of sexual passion.
NOTE: A colleague just let me know that she would want evidence showing that this particular class of drugs does not increase compulsive behaviors including compulsive shopping or gambling, although the enconomy could certainly use a bit of the former.
She would also want to know about the addictive potential of this class of drugs, as it may have a high potential for that.
The illustration of the kissing couple is by Daerick Gross Sr.