Sexual Wellness Resource Center
For Adults over 50.

Addyi, Female Viagra?

By Michael Bates, M.D.

Addyi, Female Viagra?

Recent FDA approval of a pill to treat low sexual desire in women has caused a strong reaction.   More so because of the media label of the pill as “Female Viagra.” But is it really like Viagra? Let’s compare the two medications.

  • What does each treat?
  • Mechanism of action
  • Effectiveness
  • Side effects
  • Dosage

What does each treat? Addyi treats low sexual desire, Viagra treats erectile dysfunction, the inability to obtain or maintain an erection satisfactory for intercourse.

The mechanism of action for Addyi is not completely understood. It does effect brain neurotransmitters and is a member of the family of antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs. Prozac is an example of this type of drug. Viagra does not have an effect on the brain, it stimulates blood flow to the penis.

Do these drugs really work? That is measured by effectiveness. Viagra is reported to be over 90% effective. Addyi increases the number of satisfying sexual events by about 10% when compared to placebo, or one more satisfying sexual event per month.

How about side effects? Addyi has a serious interaction with alcohol, it increases the frequency of the side effects of low blood pressure and fainting. Safe usage of the drug requires abstinence from alcohol. Viagra studies show a side effect rate of about 4%, the most common of which are headache, shortness of breath, and flushing.

Addyi has to be taken daily, Viagra is taken prior to sexual activity.

Finally, what is the profile of the ideal candidate for Addyi? Someone who has low sexual desire of at least six months duration and severe enough to cause relationship conflict. The low sexual desire cannot be due to the following conditions:

  • Coexisting medical or psychiatric illness
  • Medication secondary effects
  • Relationship problems
  • Pregnancy, menstrual cycle, menopause
  • Painful intercourse
  • Daily stresses of life, including tiredness

Is Addyi really like Viagra? Although the comparison may be useful for marketing or media headlines, the answer is no.   Is the minimal effectiveness worth the serious side effects? That question must resolved within the individual physician/patient relationship.

About the Author

Michael Bates, M.D.

Dr Bates practiced obstetrics and gynecology for 34 years in Wichita, Kansas, until his retirement in 2011.

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