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World awaits word on women’s Viagra

Sunday May 31 2015

A woman whispers to a friend. A US panel is set to decide whether to approve use of a Viagra-like drug manufactured for women. STOCK PHOTO

A woman whispers to a friend. A US panel is set to decide whether to approve use of a Viagra-like drug manufactured for women. STOCK PHOTO 

 EUNICE KILONZO
By EUNICE KILONZO
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OTIATO GUGUYU
By OTIATO GUGUYU
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In three days, the world might have its first ‘women’s Viagra’ if a panel in the US will approve its use.

The drug, Flibanserin, will be the main agenda for the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) on June 3 and 4 to recommend whether the drug that would possibly be the Viagra for women should be used or not.

During its trial, it had little effect on people’s mood but has an unexpected side effect on the women: They felt more interested in sex.

It was initially developed as an antidepressant but studies showed it helped disengage the areas in women brains that inhibit sexual interest and drive.

MODEST EFFECTS

It shifts the balance of three key brain chemicals such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, which dampens a woman’s sex drive.

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Therefore, unlike the male Viagra that treats erectile dysfunction, this drug treats the brain rather than the genitals. However, its effects are modest.

But Dr John Ong’ech an obstetrician/ gynaecologist in Nairobi believes the pill is not a silver bullet.

He said: “Sexual drive in women decreases with age but sexual response in women is affected by several factors such as stress, worry and fatigue that the pill will not solve.”

Dr Ong’ech warns that approving Flibanserin will “not help in the long term because it will not solve the relationship issues that cause the sexual drive to be on a decline”.

He added: “It shouldn’t be a quick fix. Women and their partners should address stress, tiredness that affects the women’s desire. The ultimate female Viagra is a relaxed woman.”

According to the manufacturer, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, women on Flibanserin reported 2.5 sexual events in a 28-day period, compared to 1.5 in women with a high sexual drive disorder who were not taking the drug.

This is the second time since 2010 that the Pharmaceutical Company has applied for approval to start selling the drug. But FDA has raised concerns over its side effects and potential dangers over time.

The side effects include drowsiness, dizziness and nausea.

Kenyan men in their twenties have been reported to use Viagra, which they buy over the counter from city chemists.

Although the drug, which relaxes muscles and increases blood flow to particular areas of the body should be used to treat erectile dysfunction (impotence) in men, its widespread abuse has had medics worried.

Misuse of Viagra, even when the problem is purely psychological can result in cardiovascular complications and sometimes even addiction, so that a man ends up having to use it for the rest of his life.