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Viagra for women: Does it really exist?

Posted in Sexual Health 06 Nov, 2012

According to the Sexual Advice Association, 50% of women are affected by female sexual disorder, with the inability to reach orgasm - known as anorgasmia - being a key symptom of the condition. With this in mind, the Daily Mail’s claims of the new treatment Tefina, labelled as a female alternative to the male impotence treatment Viagra, may seem like a welcoming addition to many women. But how much of a comparison can really be made? And does comparing this new ‘wonder’ medication to Viagra falsely perpetuate the common misunderstandings associated with the popular impotence prescription medication?

Viagra for impotence

Estimated to affect around 2.3 million men in the UK alone, impotence or erectile dysfunction is classified as the inability to achieve or sustain an erection that is sufficient to complete or sustain sexual intercourse with a partner. Viagra, manufactured by Pfizer, was the first prescription impotence treatment to be made available to effectively prevent such symptoms, and has in turn helped more than 20 million men worldwide enjoy a more fulfilled sex life.

How Viagra works

Viagra works by using the active ingredient sildenafil citrate to increase the flow of blood to the penis, making the act of achieving an erection easier. It does this by inhibiting the chemical phosphodiesterase, resulting in an increase of nitric oxide, enabling the smooth muscles in the penis to relax. This promotes an increase of blood flow to the area during sexual stimulation, with the final result being a firmer erection that can be maintained for a longer period of time. Viagra medication therefore serves to fix a ‘functional’ problem.

Comparing FSD with impotence

Female sexual dysfunction is when a woman experiences problems with sexual function including a loss of desire, loss of arousal, problems with orgasm and pain during sex. In most cases the problems with women are related to arousal. In contrast, impotence or erectile dysfunction is not the lack or loss of desire for sex but rather a physical condition that prevents a man from sustaining or getting an erection. Viagra does not work to affect a person's desire for sex; instead it works to help a man who wants to engage in sexual intercourse do so. The article's claims of a ‘female Viagra’ to help women increase their chances of an orgasm are completely misleading. Viagra is not devised to create sexual desire if sexual desire is not there in the first place, and it has no affect on orgasms.

Viagra for women

It is well known that for years now pharmaceutical companies have earnestly sought for a comparable treatment to ‘the little blue pill’ for women. Viagra has even been used in trial tests to treat female sexual dysfunction in women, however the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has not approved the medication for such use. The introduction of Tefina, according to the Daily Mail however, is claimed to have changed that. Administered through a nasal spray into the nose, the testosterone-based treatment is said “to boost sexual desire by activating relevant parts of the brain and increase blood flow to the organs.”

Why it is unlikely to happen

Although clinical trials have not yet begun to see if such claims are true, I am not convinced. Female sexual dysfunction is a complex condition that in large part affects a woman’s sexual desire, resulting in a low libido. Problems with loss of desire derive from physiological factors. Merely addressing the difficulties will not solve the actual problem, as desire cannot magically appear. Seeking the root cause of the problem through a therapist will help to address the reasons that are causing the condition. Generally, in contrast to a man suffering from erectile dysfunction, the issue for a woman is not wanting to have sex but being physically unable to do so, it is that she does not want or desire to have sex at all. This is the main reason why treatments claiming to be the new ‘female Viagra’ have historically had difficulty receiving approval from the FDA, why no such treatment has been approved and essentially why ‘Viagra for women’ does not exist.

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