The “female viagra” pill has been approved in the US. Here are 5 things you need to know.

Image: Will the ‘pink pill’ live up to expectations? (Image via iStock.)

The health world is abuzz today with the news that the first ‘female Viagra’ has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to go on sale in the US later this year.

The pink pill, known as Addyi or flibanserin, is designed to boost sexual desire in pre-menopausal women who experience a sudden and severe loss of libido.

RELATED: Woman sues after losing her libido in an accident.

The FDA has voted against the drug twice before; however, a campaign by the drug’s manufacturer, Sprout Pharmaceuticals Inc and a lobby group called Even The Score brought about its approval earlier this week.

At first glance, this seems kind of positive. However, before you even consider using the drug — which has been described as “a mediocre aphrodisiac with scary side effects” — there are some important points to keep in mind.

1. The name ‘female Viagra’ is misleading.

It's nothing like male Viagra

 

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Despite what its nickname suggests, Addyi — which is taken daily — does not work like traditional Viagra at all.

Viagra for men works by relaxing the blood vessels in the penis when a man is sexually stimulated. This allows blood flow into the area, resulting in an erection. Addyi, on the other hand, acts on neurotransmitters, supposedly increasing a woman's psychological desire for sex.

RELATED: 20 reasons why you've gone off sex, and how to get your mojo back.

"It works inside the brain and it increases a chemical called dopamine. Initially this was developed as an anti-depressant, but then they gave up on that and decided to go for a new market," GP Dr Ginni Mansberg explained on Sunrise this morning.

2. It's not clear if or when Addyi will come to Australia.

According to Fairfax Media, Sprout Pharmaceuticals Inc. are hoping to bring Addyi to Australia.

However, it's not clear when or if this will happen — the product's availability is subject to registration with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and it is not currently listed. (Post continues after gallery.)

 

 3. The side effects can be serious.

According to research, one in five women who used Addyi reported adverse effects, including low blood pressure, fainting, nausea, sleepiness, dry mouth, dizziness and fainting (which could pose a major safety concern).

A number of these effects are worsened — severely in some cases — by alcohol and some other medications, such as hormonal contraceptives.

Morning sickness not pregnant.
Nausea is one side effect of Addyi.

 

The FDA website states that due to a "potentially serious interaction" with alcohol, the drug will only be accessible through certified health care professionals and certified pharmacies. Patients also can't use alcohol while taking Addyi, because it can worsen the side effects (more on that in a moment).

RELATED: The key to great sex lies in timing, apparently.

"Health care professionals must assess the likelihood of the patient reliably abstaining from alcohol before prescribing Addyi," a press release explains.

4. There are strict conditions for use and access.

The FDA's approval of Addyi comes with some firm caveats. The green light was given specifically for pre-menopausal women with a condition known as "acquired, generalised hypoactive sexual desire disorder", which is characterised by low sexual desire and can develop in women who were previously sexually active.

The condition is not caused by co-existing medical or psychiatric conditions, relationship problems, or the effects of other medications or drugs. Prior to Addyi, there have been no FDA-approved treatments for sexual disorders in either women or men.

5. The results are underwhelming.

Here's the most eyebrow-raising issue with Addyi: its reported benefits are modest, to say the least.

Clinical trials indicate Addyi increased the number of "satisfying sexual events" per month by 0.5 to one among women who used it, as compared with those taking placebo pills. And, as Vox reports, between eight and 13 per cent of women will see improvements while using Addyi. (Post continues after video.)

As Dr Mansberg told Sunrise this morning, "That's a lot of pills to take for not a lot of benefits." And, considering Addyi will cost around $400 a month, it doesn't seem to provide a lot of bang per buck.

RELATED: "I provide 'happy ending' massages to women for a living."

The drug's ineffectiveness, along with its risk of side effects, was a cited reason when the FDA rejected it in 2010 and 2013. Some critics have said Addyi's approval this week is an example of advocacy and marketing trumping science.

What do you think about this 'female Viagra' - are you skeptical or optimistic about it?

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