Female Sexual Dysfunction 'Was Invented by Drugs Industry'

Published on
by
The Independent/UK

Female Sexual Dysfunction 'Was Invented by Drugs Industry'

by
Jeremy Laurance

Female sexual dysfunction – which is claimed to
affect up to two thirds of women – is a disorder invented by the
pharmaceutical industry to build global markets for drugs to treat it,
it is claimed today.

Drug companies have invested millions in the
search for a female equivalent of Viagra, so far without success. But
while doing so they have stoked demand by creating a buzz around the
disorder they have created, according to Ray Moynihan, a lecturer at the
University of Newcastle in Australia.

Corporate
employees worked with medical opinion leaders, ran surveys aimed at
portraying the problem as widespread and helped create the diagnostic
instruments to persuade women that their sexual difficulties deserved a
medical label. But sex problems in women are far more complex than they
are in men, encompassing lack of desire, lack of arousal and lack of
orgasm and the drug industry's narrow focus is failing them.

Mr. Moynihan, who first investigated the drug
industry's role in female sexual dysfunction a decade ago, says it
illustrates a wider problem about the creation of new diseases, and the
widening of existing boundaries for treatment with designations such as
pre-diabetes, pre-hypertension and pre-osteoporosis, for which the
latest treatments are aggressively promoted.

In
his new book, Sex, Lies and Pharmaceuticals, which is previewed in the
British Medical Journal, he says: "Drug marketing is merging with
medical science in a fascinating and frightening way. Perhaps it is time
to reassess the way in which the medical establishment defines common
conditions and recommends how to treat them."

In
2005, Pfizer, makers of Viagra, funded a survey which showed 63 per
cent of women had sexual dysfunction and that testosterone and Viagra
might be helpful. In 2006, Procter and Gamble, makers of a testosterone
patch for women, sponsored a survey showing one in 10 postmenopausal
women had hypoactive [low] sexual desire disorder (the company sold its
drug business in 2009). In 2008, Boehringer Ingelheim, makers of
flibanserin which is claimed to boost the female libido, sponsored a
survey which also showed one in 10 women was in need of help.

Efforts
by the companies to meet the need have subsequently foundered. Pfizer
pulled Viagra from the market for women after trials showed it had no
greater effect than placebo. Procter and Gamble's testosterone patch was
rejected in 2004 in the US, over fears it raised the risk of cancer and
heart disease and Beohringer Ingelheim's drug, flibanserin, was
rejected by the US Food and Drug Administration in June on the grounds
it had failed to deliver the agreed benefits while carrying the risk of
serious side effects.

Mr Moynihan warns that
although the drugs have so far failed, more are in the pipeline and
claims that "the drug industry shows no signs of abandoning plans to
meet the unmet need it has helped to manufacture". A spokesman for
Pfizer said: "We currently have no plans to develop medicines for FSD."

Failed female treatments

Viagra
Initial indications suggested the drug's success for men could be
repeated for women. But trials failed to show a benefit over placebo.

Testosterone
A testosterone skin patch to correct a hormonal deficiency in women was
rejected in the US over fears it increased the risk of cancer and heart
disease.

Flibanserin Developed as an antidepressant, the drug was claimed to boost libido. But its risks were deemed to outweigh benefits.

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