Don’t Call it Female Viagra

Published on 07 September 2015

Whether new medications receive banner headlines or not, one of the most important parts of a pharmacist’s job is to stay current on what’s on the market. As the medication experts on interprofessional health teams, pharmacists regularly make treatment recommendations and discuss options with prescribing physicians. Abby Yancey, Pharm.D., BCPS, associate professor of pharmacy practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, knew the approval of Addyi (flibanserin) would generate a lot of discussion. It is the first medication for the treatment of hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). In addition to being a faculty member at the College, Yancey works directly with patients at a St. Louis-area health center and regularly counsels women about health issues and their medication.

First Thing to Know

“This is not the equivalent of Viagra for women,” Yancey says. “Addyi works completely different in the body than Viagra. It is a once-a-day, everyday medication. Women have reported some benefit over time in trials. They reported an increase of up to one satisfying sexual encounter a month over the placebo, or control, group. The women on the medicine also reported a 10 percent increase in number of sexual thoughts.”

Serious Side Effects

“Patients taking this medication can’t drink any alcohol,” Yancey says. “There are some potentially serious side effects when mixing the two. There’s an increased risk of a dangerous drop in blood pressure and a risk of fainting.”

Abby Yancey, Pharm.D.Special Certification

“Because of those possible interactions and side effects, both physicians and pharmacists need special certification to prescribe and dispense the medication,” Yancey says.

The Right Patients

“The medication was approved for a small group of women,” Yancey says. “It’s only for pre-menopausal women with HSDD who have no other cause for their low interest. That’s the big thing. There are a lot of possible medical reasons for low interest. For instance, low interest is a side effect of antidepressant medication. A patient could also have thyroid issues or abnormal hormone levels.”

Recommendations

“When I talk with my patients about this medication, it’s a long discussion,” Yancey says. “We talk about medical reasons, and I bring up the potential for non-medical reasons for low interest like stress and lack of sleep. I talk about the side effects as well. I want my patients to have the whole picture so they can make an informed decision before taking any medication.”

Next Steps

“There hasn’t been much research into women’s sexual dysfunction,” Yancey says. “The media attention surrounding Addyi’s launch could spur other companies to look into HSDD and associated conditions. It could be the start of something.”

Photo Credit: Sprout Pharmaceuticals
Explore more stories in the categories of: Faculty , Practice