Just as the concepts of Recovery, Citizen Scientists and pretty well everything else can be captured by pharmaceutical industry, so also feminism and claims of sexism are now being hijacked by industry as marketing tools.
FDA are accused of being sexist in not licensing a ‘female Viagra’. This claim is being used to mobilize pressure on them to license a pharmaceutical solution which will bring into being the linked diagnosis of ‘female sexual dysfunction’ (FSD).
There is sexism in the FDA. But this is better illustrated by looking at the Ambien story where the failure to require an analysis of the effects and side effects of this drug dis-aggregated by gender meant women have been overdosed for over a decade with this drug.
Ambien (zolpidem) is a commonly prescribed sleeping tablet. The same dose gives a doubling of blood levels in women compared with men. In 1992, the data were included in the FDA review of the drug. But there was no recommendation for a differential dosing of this drug until January 2013. The example of Ambien should mean there is a requirement for safety or efficacy analyses of all new drugs by gender. This is the issue for women.
This post is by Leonore Tiefer, Chair NewViewCampaign.org.
Ever since Viagra was approved for erectile dysfunction in 1998, Big Pharma has been looking for a similar blockbuster drug to market to women. Sales would be huge because much research shows women are often frustrated and dissatisfied in their sexual lives.
However, despite testing hormones, vasodilators, and central nervous system agents, despite testing patches, pills, gels, pellets, lotions and intranasal sprays, Big Pharma has failed to produce clinical trial data showing sufficient safety and effectiveness to impress the FDA. That’s where the situation stands at the moment.
The industry continues to pressure the FDA using a variety of extraordinary public relations campaigns. Who can forget “sexbrainbody.com” in 2010 or “Yourvoiceyourwish.com” in 2013.
The most recent, “Eventhescore.org” 2014, claims that the FDA is “sexist” because sexuality drugs have been approved for men but not women. The false facts behind this argument (not to mention the outrageous hijacking of feminist political language) has not prevented the involvement of various professional organizations, women’s rights groups, and even women congresspeople. Our group created a petition to challenge the deceptive “Even the Score” PR campaign about so-called gender bias at the FDA.
Please SIGN and circulate – http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/end-deceptive-pr-about-womens-sexual-health
But the PR campaign is not the only important “female sexual dysfunction” event this fall. As part of a new initiative on “Patient-focused drug development“, the FDA is having a series of 2 day meetings during 2013-2015 – and one on “female sexual dysfunction” is scheduled in Silver Spring, Maryland for October 27/28, 2014.
It won’t focus on a specific drug, but rather on hearing from female patients about their experiences – the severity of their distress, their specific symptoms, how their symptoms affect their daily life and mood, what they’ve tried and how things worked out. Here’s the specifics about the meeting – it’s free and open to the public. Drs and drug companies will be bringing patients to tell their stories, and the main organizing effort of the New View Campaign will be to recruit ordinary people to tell stories about how they resolved or ameliorated their sexual problems through non-medical interventions — reframing their problems, sexuality workshops, couple therapy, individual counseling, reading/study, consciousness-raising, use of vibrators and lubricants, a new partner, online learning, prayer, whatever.
The FDA is reaching out to learn what women are suffering and experiencing, what they are trying in the way of remedy, and how it’s working out. This is a worthwhile endeavor, but not if the only people who show up were brought by doctors and drug companies to sing the praises of medical solutions for women’s problems with pleasure, desire, arousal, and sexual satisfaction.
There will be opportunities for “patients” and “experts” not only to speak from the floor but to submit written statements. The New View is collecting letters and statements similar to the letters we brought to the FDA Advisory committee hearing on flibanserin in 2010. (The FDA voted against this unsafe and ineffective central nervous system drug.) The 2nd day of the hearing (Oct 28) will be devoted to scientific issues/dilemmas that are important in clinical trials – definition, measurement, trial endpoints, etc. Our statement/letters can address these issues, too.
We are also developing a bibliography of recent empirical studies about effective non-medical treatments and ineffective medical treatments (e.g., hi discontinuation rates for ED drugs). Take a look at the bibliography from the flibanserin hearing – we want to add studies published since 2010.
As we did for the hearings on Intrinsa (2004 – the first “female sexual dysfunction” drug, a testosterone patch, also rejected by the FDA) and flibanserin, we will produce FACT SHEETS to be used by the FDA, the press, and scholars and students.
Here are some possible topics for our fact sheets:
Don’t be flim-flammed by Big Pharma’s PR campaigns with their Cheshire Cat sympathy for women’s sexual distress. There are many safe and effective interventions already available for women’s sexual problems. Please contact our group if you would like to be involved firstname.lastname@example.org, and please sign our petition with your full name – ignoring the request for $ – it’s $ for ipetitions not for us!
To me this focus on a “female Viagra” is anything BUT feminist. There’s dozens of factors in our lives, work, relationships and the larger world that can stifle our interest in sex – yet we’re being told the problem must be within us. How about all the women struggling to be go-getters at work, perfect mothers, great housekeepers, active citizens – and wondering why they can’t be Red Hot Mamas too? Maybe they’re, um, tired? How many women still don’t know much about their own sexuality? Many could be helped by talking to other women, reading a few pamphlets, talking to a doctor, therapist or other expert … and then talking to their man. He could probably use some education too, and maybe a chance to unlearn what he’s absorbed from Hollywood movies or online porn.
Then there’s all the non-sexual problems in a relationship that might cause trouble; all the anxiety carried by the majority of us who don’t look very much like the women on “Sex and the City”; all the mixed messages in the culture about women and sex … I’m sure there are some women whose problems are strictly physical, but at least 90% of the problem has gotta be in these other issues the feminist movement really knows how to take on.
Instead these drug companies are basically saying, “Honey, you must be frigid. Go to the doctor and get that fixed, OK?” It’s a fifty-year step backward to the “swinging” sexism of the Mad Men era. No thanks.
“For women the best aphrodisiacs are words. The G-spot is in the ears. He who looks for it below there is wasting his time. ” – Isabel Allende
Why is it looked at as something “lacking” if a woman’s sexuality changes or evolves in a way that opens her to new areas of interest rather than pre-occupation with physical sex? Is it that some people have never experienced anything more pleasurable? Kind of sad if that’s the only thing that keeps couples together, but maybe that line of thinking is what the sex pill industry is banking on. Sexual abstinence doesn’t always mean lack of pleasure. That’s crazy.
I share Johannas view above as I think there are a number of reasons why a woman may not want sex, or be in the mood and none of them have anything to do with a medical problem. For many of us its normal to be tired, preoccupied or just ‘not want sex’ and thats ok! We dont have to justify every reason for not being turned on the whole time and yet this is being marketed a problem that needs to be put right. Yes some will have a physical problem that needs attention but a larger amount wont. I worry here that some women will believe they need a tablet when really perhaps they just need someone to confide in, or they need some time out from a busy schedule or some advice etc. Unfortunately modern culture and media imply that women should be ‘doing it all the time’ and for the majority of women thats not true! No doubt this drug was invented by a man…. Perhaps a part of the problem rests with the men who dare I say it may need to look at their own performance first….
Interesting that Johanna mentioned ‘Sex and The City’ in her post above as I see this morning via Twitter that Kim Cattrall is now the face of Pfizer’s ‘Tuneintomenopause.com’ campaign. A timely reminder that sex sells- in this case no doubt using Kim’s Sex and The City profile to empower women and encourage them to make smart choices about their bodies and health…
This just in: An apple a day linked to better sex life for young women:
A spicier report, with better pictures, in the London Daily Telegraph:
Not sure if it’s definitive … but unlike most drugs, it’s cheap and harmless to give it a try! Plus my grandma always said it keeps you regular, and who needs constipation while you’re trying to get in the mood?
It´s getting worse and worse. When I was young, I fought for the right to abortion, as I grew up in an abuse family and never ever wanted kids. This fight is raging on, and now, being on a pension for health reasons, I have problems with landlords and neighbors – just because I have not inherited anything and have to rent a (cheap) flat or little house!!!
To say “I am asexual” or even “I am third gender” is of no use. Even shouting “Piss off!” or “Do not touch!” helps only on the street (I am slow in climbing into and off public transport), but only minutes with people I pass by regularly. The police is unwilling to persecute the stalkers, repeating the old catcallers´dreck: “You belong in the loony bin, get treated if you do not want any sex, etc”.
And I do not drink alcohol or go into drinking situations, so no chance to slip me a date rape drug. YES, it has been tried at my age! Also by women who want to sell me their ex or other idiot I was to do slavework for, not “only” raped!!!
I am willing to risk much for functional painkillers (and I have joined getting rid of The War on Drugs), but not for a pill that would turn my brain into wanting (and make me risk) repeating my childhood.
These lie campaigns feel very threatening to me.
I am glad that i fought off having children, and I do not want to have sex.
Perhaps I am a member of a minority, but I exist.
the reason those problems mentioned above affect women’s sexuality is that, their sexuality is internal, literally, and they have totally different sexual response than men.. and no pill in the world will fix this..