Monday, June 8, 2015

Viagrette: Half a screw per month. . . . or are you being screwed?

Finally, after literally decades of Viagra envy, and by popular demand, no doubt fueled by the manufacturer, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, it looks like the Women's Viagra (chemical is fibanserinwill soon be available at a drugstore (or online scammer) near you.   Here's one version of the story, from the BBC.  You should apparently overlook that it only gives an average half turn of the screw per month and has negative side effects that might be dangerous.  It looks as though the biggest danger, that Sprout won't garner its financial bonanza, has fortunately be averted by our dispassionate FDA. We suggest that Sprout call it Viagrette, and their slogan should be "The best is yet to come!".

In the pink.  From the BBC story

One doesn't want to minimize the issue of female loss of fun, sexual desire or responsiveness. But the facts that it hardly works and has potentially serious negative downsides even in the limited trials that have been done, clearly were undermined by both political and economic pressures.  This may be a feminist issue, of Viagra Dreams, and if its promise is not a fantasy at least one women's coalition group, Even the Score, that feels that women's sexual dysfunction issues have been given short shrift by the FDA, has been pressing for its approval. But that doesn't make this the right test case, the proper thing to approve to address prior discrimination.  Instead, there is more than a little taint of this mainly being about opportunistic social politics, and one can't be blamed for thinking is suggests the FDA, rather than a watch-dog in the public interest, is the lap-dog of the corporate world.

If there could be a genuine, properly targeted female equivalent to Viagra, that would be a good thing.  Nobody but some very dated, prudish, or sexist religious groups would object.  Research on developing such an agent that actually worked and was safe could be useful, even if it would be a huge profit maker for the company that develops it. One might argue that research devoted to the pharmaceutical bottom line, and thus skewed toward frivolous drugs (such as the drug the FDA just approved to treat double chins), is research misplaced, given the real life-devastating diseases that people face.  But these are businesses, after all, and their business is making money.

Half a thrill is....ill
We don't want to denigrate anything that can make life more meaningful or pleasurable for anyone, and coupling can certainly be among the most important aspects of a satisfying life.  It's fine for women as well as men to be Sprouting with desire.  Risk-benefit calculations are typically very difficult and inaccurate, but it's also true that half of 'thrill' is 'ill', and in this case the side effects could be serious, and the benefit itself is subjective--self-reporting of amelioration of excitile, rather than objectively erectile, dysfunction as far as we understand.  But selling this pill on the promise that it can in fact improve a woman's libido seems to be highly irresponsible, because countless women will invest countless dollars, often swayed by what clearly will be a tsunami of enticement advertising, for hardly any, if any, benefit.  And this for risks that are probably being underestimated, since among the usual temptation to interpret trial results through rose-colored glasses, once a drug is on the market, being taken by many more people than it was tested on, the list of side effects inevitably grows, not shrinks.  Because of the likelihood of its plans for heavily self-serving promotion, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, ever-so-public spirited, said they wouldn't advertise it for...a whole year!  Is this being too cynical?

It is possible, if going pink doesn't work or if its negative side effects are better documented, that word of mouth will overpower slick advertising, and the wonder drug will wilt into failure.  But given how our culture works, it seems far more likely that the natural as well as engineered demand, with the many groups who stand to gain, including Sprout but also various types of therapists who can now diagnose some new 'conditions', for which there is a 'treatment', will bloat this new semi-drug into another commercial Viagra. And if it's considered medicine it will be built into health-care costs. Or, should we ask if for half a screw a month, Sprout is screwing a gullible public? Is this too cynical?

Pharma has been dreaming for many years not of the proverbial sugar-plums dancing over their heads, but of new blockbuster drugs, ever since statins and Viagra and other lifetime meds were marketed (and as patents expire).  They're determined BiDil and By Golly to play whatever shenanigans will prevent the juicy bits from slipping through their fingers.  The two most obvious apples of their desires, since Viagra's miracles were discovered (inadvertently, as we recall), have been a female Viagra and a treatment for male pattern baldness. The latter still evades success, but you can be sure that pockets will be picked by 'the little pink pill'. Lifetime meds are what make sense, that is, are good for business. Will the costs then further burden any semblance of a national health-care program this country might have?  Is this being too cynical?

Satisfying whose desires?
Anyway, for a while at least, it's gonna be cash-in time.  This has currently been intended as a premenopausal remedy,  but it doesn't take much imagination to wonder whether various reasons will be found to extend the usage to older women, too.  Why not?  One can anticipate be that vested interests will make enough effort that at least some later-age effect will be found, or even that prescriptions in practice will be made to last a lifetime. Is this too cynical?

We can have a bit of fun imagining the senior romps that will be enabled (something one might see on the TV series Derek).  If that is what happens it may give retirement centers a bit of a burden, as they'll probably have to have late-hour EMTs on hand for those who experience side effects, direct or indirect, of this new medication.

Is this being too cynical?  Time will tell.

No comments: