One Step Closer to a “Female Viagra”?

by | Apr 14, 2012 | Health & News

We’ve all seen the commercials for the little blue pill, Viagra. Men jumping for joy while the song, “We are the Champions”, by Queen, is blasting in the background. Ever wonder why the little blue pill that has worked wonders for male sexual dysfunction never made it into a little “pink” pill?

Well, new research led by a team of researchers at Pfizer’s labs in England, using a novel prototype drug may pave the way for discovering more about the mechanisms underlying female sexual arousal and developing a “female Viagra”. (1),

It is estimated that approximately 40% of women experience some type of sexual disorder, with desire and arousal being the most common (2,3). At present, there is not a single US FDA approved the medication for the treatment of sexual problems in women. When Pfizer initially marketed Viagra for men, there were high hopes that Viagra, sildenafil citrate, would work as effectively for women and represent the “Holy Grail” that many pharmaceutical companies were vying to find.

The Advent of the “Blue Pill”

Viagra was initially developed by British scientists and brought to market by Pfizer, becoming available in 1998. Since this time, sildenafil has been the primary treatment for erectile dysfunction in men. Viagra works by increasing blood flow, or vasocongestion, in the erectile tissue located in the penis. For those biochemists out there, the mechanism of action involves the protection of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) from being metabolized by a certain enzyme, phosphodiesterase type 5, leading to smooth muscle relaxation and increased the inflow of blood into the spongy tissue of the penis, causing an erection (4).

What did studies in women taking Viagra find?

Definitely not the same results as in men! One large study involved premenopausal and postmenopausal women with female sexual arousal disorder comparing 10-100 mg sildenafil with matching placebo. Unfortunately, there was no perceived difference in the improvement of sexual response in the women in the Viagra compared to placebo (5). Other studies also confirmed these findings.

So how are we a step closer to a “female Viagra”?
A research group led by Chris Wayman at the Pfizer lab found that electrically stimulating the pelvic nerve increases blood flow to the genitalia and that by using a prototype drug ( UK-414, 498) this effect was enhanced. The drug which was tested on rabbits and found increased blood flow specifically to the genitalia. The key component is that arousal was initially stimulated in the female rabbits and then the drug was administered. “The drug would not create arousal out of nowhere, however, would boost blood flow when accompanied by desire and sexual stimulation”, said Wayman.

According to Sheryl Kingsberg at Case Medical Center in Cleveland, this new discovery will help only a minority of women who have diagnosable arousal disorders, approximately 5% of women. “This is the closest thing out there to Viagra for women, but the problem is that a Viagra-like effect will not solve the majority of sexual dysfunction cases in women. In contrast to men in whom erections have played a huge role in sexual health, for women arousal is not the key problem, desire is.”

Though the prototype itself is unlikely to become a drug according to Wayman, “Testing the drug has helped to defog the mystery behind Female Sexual Arousal Disorder.”So we are left with the million-dollar question of how to increase desire in women.

As we know female sexual response is complex and can’t be flipped on like a light switch. It’s more like a complex control panel.

Presently, researchers are investigating specific medications which work “above the belt” in women, targeting areas in the brain responsible for desire…because for women, the main sexual organ is the brain!

In the meantime, start doing your own research.

What makes you feel more desire?
What makes you feel more desirable?

I believe that “you first need to feel desirable — to then have desire”

Citations:
1. Wayman, CP. et al. UK-414,495, a selective inhibitor of neutral endopeptidase, potentiates pelvic nerve-stimulated increases in female genital blood flow in the anesthetized rabbit. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2010; May: 160 (1): 51-59.

2. Laumann, EO. et al. Sexual Dysfunction in the United States: Prevalence and Predictors. JAMA, 1999; 281 (6): 537 -544.

3. Laumann, EO et al. A population-based survey of sexual activity, sexual problems and associated help-seeking behavior patterns in mature adults in the United States of America. Int.J. Impot. Res. 2009; May-June: 21(3): 171-178.
4. Webb, DJ et al. Sildenafil citrate and blood-pressure-lowering drugs: results of drug interaction studies with an organic nitrate and a calcium antagonist. Am. J. Cardiol, 1999; 83: (5A): 21C – 28C.

5. Basson, R. et al. Efficacy and safety of sildenafil citrate in women associated with female sexual arousal disorder. Journal of Women’s Health and Gender-Based Medicine. 2002;11:367-377.

Categories