Viagra meets its match: Sex pills for the female libido are on their way

The pharmaceutical industry has discovered the female libido. German biotech company Boehringer Ingelheim is "putting the finishing touches on a pill designed to reawaken desire by blunting female inhibitions," according to Bloomberg News, which scientists will discuss next week in Lyon, France.

The drug has nothing to do with George Clooney, or getting male spouses to help more around the house. Turns out women's sex drives are centered in the brain. Who knew? (Not most guys, probably.)
Viagra for Women?

The Boehringer pill could do for women what Pfizer's (PFE) Viagra did for men. U.S. sales for pills boosting the female libido could top the $2 billion spent on erectile dysfunction treatments, Bloomberg estimates, because women report more sexual problems than men.

Decreased sexual desire is a serious problem for women. A Boehringer survey of 31,000 U.S. women 18 and over found that one in 10 expressed distress over diminished sex drive.

Is that a medical problem? The answer isn't so clear-cut. A man's erection is a physical response that can be treated with medicine, but a woman's sexual dissatisfaction is a complex psychological issue. (Pfizer abandoned efforts years ago to create a Viagra for women.) And as Boehringer's scientists note, there's no definitive answer of what constitutes a normal sex drive. A lack of sexual desire is often tied to a woman's relationship with her partner.

A Marketing Challenge

Still, Boehringer may be onto something. Pfizer's marketing playbook for Viagra includes always avoiding the word "impotence"; "erectile dysfunction" has a nicer ring to it, no? Similarly, Boehringer avoids "frigidity" and refers to "hypoactive sexual desire disorder," or HSDD, according to Bloomberg.

Media companies are no doubt as excited about the research as Boehringer. The creative juices on Madison Avenue must be flowing. I have visions of Boehringer ads blanketing shows aimed at women -- soap operas, Oprah, Lifetime movies. Somewhere in Hollywood today, there's surely a hack banging out a comic screenplay about a goofy guy who spikes the cocktails of his bored dates.

Unfortunately, Big Pharma hasn't come up with a drug that solves people's personal problems for them. Now, there's a drug that would be a best-seller.
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