What Will Be the Actual Impact of Flibanserin?

For those of you who haven’t been following the asexual blogosphere’s commentary on the recently approved flibanserin, you can read this, this, this, and this.

My opinion, to be brief, is similar to that of most ace bloggers: pathologizing low libido and/or lack of sexual activity is bad.

But how are general audiences reacting to the approval of flibanserin?

I read a few hundred comments on a news article about flibanserin (an article which does not mention asexuality) … and the only positive comment I could find was this one from ‘kevin’

And, all married men around the world rejoice at once!!! A main side effect is low blood pressure?… that is great, so my wife doesn’t have to take high blood pressure meds now either.
I’d like to know where they got the absurdly low numbers of 8 to 14 percent of women 20 to 49 that need this pill… I can speak to all married couples I know, that it’s less than 8 to 14 percent of women that don’t need this pill.

I find it interesting that the only positive comment, out of hundreds, comes from a man who isn’t going to take this pill himself, and who seems to be much more concerned about women providing sex (and is of the opinion that the majority of women don’t provide enough sex) than about women’s well-being. Incidently, a commenter called Scott speculates on this drug’s effects on men…

I bet it would work for men too since it effects the brain with dopamine in some similar way stimulants can rather than just effecting blood vessels like Viagra. Sounds like a new recreational drug…

So, if the overwhelming majority of comments are negative, what are people saying?

There are a few people who claim to have been involved in the trials, either as a patient or as a professional, and all of them say that the side effects are much more severe than the article or the official warnings indicate, and that they would never use this pill again. Here is one such comment from A-Starr:

I worked with this medication during the late R & D stages in Kalamazoo. The drowsiness it caused was nearly debilitating to the study group. Sprout pharmaceuticals bought the patent rights to this compound after a pharmaceutical giant…I think it was Glaxo…declined to continue developing it. My advice as a pharmacist, stay the hell away from this medication. HRT and other options exist, not without their own side effects, but certainly not as bad as this medicine. Also, nothing replaces true romance as a libido boost.

There are a lot of jokes about how an expensive pill with side-effects is less effective than alcohol/romantic dates/Brad Pitt/etc. Some people respond to these jokes by saying that they’ve tried all that (except Brad Pitt), and it didn’t work, but they don’t say that they support this pill.

Some people mention that a lot of people can’t take these drugs because they conflict with so many other drugs, or because they are post-menopausal women. ‘Eric’ makes one such comment

that drug will never be ordered at my pharmacy, 90% that female 32+ of my patients are on premarin, Fluconazole , Estrodial + Flagyl and zoloft if they are having menopause.

If this pill just interacts severely with just anti-fingles who knows how bad it can interacts with others medication used for not only fungle infection/control but hormones and SSRI’s. this medication would prob work best for ages 60+ when the amount of women health hygiene control is minimal and menopause has done it course.

An overwhelming theme is a greedy and dishonest Big Pharma and the corruption of the FDA, like this sarcastic remark from ‘Junior’:

American pharma is wonderful. Here, this will fix your arthritis, but you may die of a brain bleed while dealing with explosive bouts of diarrhea.

A lot of comments focus on the expense and side effects of getting one more sexually satisfying event per month. A lot of comments say that this is probably the placebo effect, or point out that this pill had failed in previous attempts to get FDA approval. Quite a few comments reference the fact that the drug company funded the ‘Even the Score’ initiative in order to push the approval of a dangerous and ineffective drug (this is mentioned in the original article). Furthermore, there is a lot of discussion of how corrupt the FDA must be to approve this drug, with claims that the FDA people were bribed, and that it would be better if the FDA weren’t around. One comment in this vein comes from ‘Tom’:

“They point out that the FDA rejected the drug twice, in 2010 and 2013, due to these risks.”

It’s another demonstration, if one were necessary, that the FDA is exactly like every other regulatory agency. Regulators always wind up in the pockets of those being regulated. The same thing happened with aspartame and uncounted other substances. It was first rejected until the manufacturer (through Donald Rumsfeld in the case of aspartame) brought pressure to bear on and FDA to approve it and keep it on the market despite its bad side-effects.

The side effects of this drug make it not worth the risk/price of using it.

In summary, both corporate America and the national government are being delegitimized.

The consensus – with the exception of kevin’s comment, as well a few very silly comments – is that people are not going to take or prescribe this drug.

Granted, the commenters on this article are probably more informed than the general public because they did read at least one article about flibanserin … but if the comments are any indicator, this drug is not going to sell well. And if the side-effects are as severe as claimed, many of the people who do try this drug will probably stop taking it sooner rather than later.

A lot of asexual commentators are concerned that the marketing campaign will increase hostility/pressure on women who don’t feel like having sex. I think this concern is valid. However, I think that this drug will also get a big backlash, and I think (or at least hope) that the backlash will counter a lot of the patholization of not feeling like having sex. After all, as the medical establishment loses its legitimacy by pushing dangerous and ineffective treatments, people will care less about what the medical establishment says.

No, I think the biggest impact the flibanserin will have will not be its impact on asexuals specifically, but its role in continuing the delegitimization of the medical establishment and the USA’s national government (represented by the FDA). As people trust the medical establishment less and less, they will support it less and less – for example, people can stop taking pharmaceuticals – and eventually it will collapse. And the government … well, governments which lose its legitimacy don’t last long, and if the national government of the USA fails … there’s going to be a lot of pain.

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8 thoughts on “What Will Be the Actual Impact of Flibanserin?

  1. That’s good to hear in all this. I don’t think a growing lack of trust will make people stop taking these medicines though….maybe just be more cautious of the new ones? I think many older drugs are supposed to be safer because they’re more tested anyway. And in many cases new drugs aren’t even better than the old ones–they’re only tested against placebos. That’s what I’ve read about drugs for mental illness anyway *shrug*

    • It’s funny because Ye Olde Mental Illness Drugs like tricyclic antidepressants and kinds of lithium…are often now talked about as a last measure because of risk and side effects. Whereas, newer drugs like Pristiq and one whose name I can’t remember for schizophrenia, have fewer side effects than ever. (But, they’re only available as name brand, and insurance will fight to give you a generic “version” that is actually a totally different drug. Pristiq != desvenlafaxine != venlafaxine.)

      Talking about the collapse of the medical establishment makes me want to read post-apocalyptic novels that deal w people on psych meds — what do we do….

      • I know nothing about schizophrenia drugs, but if the newer drugs are effective and have minimal side effects, that’s a good thing.

    • Older drugs have been tested a lot more, for obvious reasons. They aren’t necessarily safer, but they are better understood.

      I think people’s hesitation to take a risky drug has a lot to do with the risks of not getting treatment. If I had a disease which had a 95% chance of killing me in the next year, and the only potential treatment only worked slightly better than a placebo, came with side effects such as nausea, fainting, etc., and cost 70 dollars per month, I would probably take a chance on it. But if the main potential benefit is increasing sexually satisfying events by one per month? I think even allosexual women won’t be inclined to try it (assuming they are informed of everything in this news article).

  2. If we expect a big backlash, I think the correct strategy is to be very loud and make sure that asexuality education is a standard talking point in the backlash.

    On the TAA thread you said you discussed tricks to game clinical trials, but I don’t see that discussion here.

    • I agree, being loud is a good tactic.

      On the TAA thread, I meant I wrote more about my thoughts about flibanserin and the loss of legitimacy in this post, not about gaming clinical trials specifically. When talking about a loss of trust/legitimacy, it’s not so important whether or not the trials were in fact gamed, but whether the public believes they were gamed (for the record, I suspect the trials were in fact gamed, but I don’t have evidence).

  3. Pingback: Linkspam: August 28th, 2015 | The Asexual Agenda

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