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5 questions you may have about “female viagra”

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Are you a woman who has experienced a low sex drive at some point in life? Well, it is not unusual for a woman’s libido to wax and wane over time. A diminished libido may occur for various reasons including stress, relationship problems, depression, thyroid disorders, medication side effect, and several other medical and mental health conditions.

The first step for any woman grappling with a diminished sex drive is to discuss symptoms with a doctor and obtain a comprehensive evaluation to determine if there are any major factors contributing to the problem. The doctor may also determine if you are actually experiencing a form of sexual dysfunction known as Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD). The condition is typically characterized by lacking interest in sexual activity and lacking sexual thoughts while feeling highly distressed or bothered about those symptoms. As the problem persists and continues to affect personal relationships, women are usually left feeling extremely frustrated and in search of immediate solutions.

Many women dealing with HSDD want to explore pharmacotherapy options available to effectively treat the disorder. Since 2015, there has been an oral medication (Addyi) approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help treat HSDD, and most recently on June 21, 2019 another injectable drug was FDA approved named Vyleesi (Bremelanotide). Some have already started referring to the newly approved drug as “Female Viagra”.

As per the recent FDA announcement, the drug Vyleesi is meant to “treat acquired, generalized hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in premenopausal women.” Since the approval of the drug, there has been a lot of buzz that Vyleesi could potentially be the answer to some women’s ongoing struggles with sexual dysfunction in the form of lowered libido. Here are some key questions you may have about Vyleesi that you should definitely discuss with your doctor if this is a treatment modality being considered for you in lieu of its release.

How is Vyleesi “female viagra” different from viagra for men?
Viagra for men works to help cause an erection in those with erectile dysfunction; the drug is a PDE5 inhibitor that works to stimulate an erection by enhancing the flow of blood to the corpus cavernosum of the penis. Vyleesi, on the other hand, has a mechanism of action that is not so clear, but it ultimately aims to improve sexual desire. It involves the activation of melanocortin hormone receptors involved in sexual desire. The FDA notes clearly that the drug “Vyleesi does not enhance sexual performance”.

Who is the right person to take the drug?
Women who haven’t experienced menopause yet with a diagnosis of acquired hypoactive sexual desire disorder may be potential candidates to take the drug. It is contraindicated though in those with hypertension or cardiovascular disease, as Vyleesi was found to cause elevations in blood pressure after administration.

(3) How is Vyleesi administered?
The drug is injected subcutaneously into the abdomen or thigh forty-five minutes prior to sexual activity. It is important to note that not all patients are comfortable with the idea of injections when treating any health condition. So, if this medication is being considered for you, then determine if it’s a practical and realistic option to inject the medication into your body before an anticipated sexual encounter.

(4) Are there any known side effects?
Bear in mind that every drug has a side effect and this must be discussed with your health care provider prior to initiation. The notable side effect of Vyleesi includes gastrointestinal upset in the form of nausea. As per the FDA, “about 40% of patients in the clinical trials experienced nausea, most commonly with the first Vyleesi injection”. Hyperpigmentation of the skin was another side effect associated with the drug.

(5) Is there research supporting the drug’s efficacy?
In the randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trials that were performed, it was noted that 25% patients in the Vyleesi treatment group had an increase in sexual desire as compared to 17% taking a placebo. Is this enough data though to conclude that the drug works well? The takeaway is that although Vyleesi has been approved, research is still lacking and more studies are needed to determine the overall efficacy of this treatment modality for low libido.


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