There are reasons why people don’t think highly of pharmaceutical companies. One of them is the misguided race to promote “female sexual dysfunction”, and to find a “cure.”
While there may indeed be biological reasons for certain sexual difficulties in women, the notion that some pill is going to fan the flames of desire and be an “orgasmatic” really minimizes what sexuality is all about.
Viagra does indeed address one physical component of sexual difficulty for men – the erection. But it is not an orgasm-producer or desire-creator, and no analogue has been found for women yet. There is no such panacea pill, because genuine sexual fulfillment is primarily about a healthy relationship, good communication, and pretty basic technique. The first two, in particular, are much more challenging to achieve and maintain, and cannot by any stretch of imagination be replaced by a capsule or a spray.
Passion ebbs and flows. Our bodies change as we age. Is there some biological/biochemical/hormonal aspect to sexual function? Sure. Hormonal tweaking may help somewhat (or may only mask a few symptoms of deeper causes), but can lead to other medical issues down the road.
But I’d be willing to bet that in most cases, “sexual dysfunction” is more a problem of heart disease – the kind that is not cured by pharmaceuticals. You can’t bottle respect, kindness, and love. I’m a guy, yet I’d boldly venture to guess that a lot of what is called “female sexual dysfunction” is really another term for “relational disruption” and/or “male inconsideration”! The complex emotional, psychological, and physiological response of a woman cannot be reduced so easily. The easy fix is to blame a syndrome and pop a pill. But that’s a fool’s dream.
Lest anyone be tempted to accuse me of misogyny, I’m all for medical cures for physiological problems, including anything that can help with biochemically-influenced sexual difficulties. But I’m not in favor of disease-mongering, or pipe-dream fixes for complex issues. Neither Viagra nor any other pharmaceutical can “fix” sexual desire or the Big “O”. But the pursuit of it can sure produce the Big $$.
That’s why I think it’s a mistake for pharmas to try to create this syndrome/market/cure. This problem needs to be addressed mainly on other levels. And pharma needs to address pressing medical concerns that can be fixed by…medicine.
[Over-simplified guy perspective? Probably. For a fuller discussion from the female perspective, I recommend a look at Liz Scherer’s FlashFree blog]
Jane Chin says
If you did NOT write this post and address the big marketing push behind the female sexual dysfunction “disease”, and what in reality is much of the CAUSE behind the symptoms, then that would be misogyny!
Look at the male sexual dysfunction disease market – what began as a niche disease born of side effects of other chronic conditions (diabetes for example) has now become a big, lifestyle, recreational “therapeutic” market.
The female sexual dysfunction is one of those areas where I am not going to be defending drug companies against claims of disease-mongering, because I KNOW this is what’s going to get the blockbuster, billion dollar sales status for drug co’s entering this market.
Bill Senger says
Steve, as typical, a well-thought out and (in this industry) courageous essay on a controversial topic. Our baby-boomer generation seems to have developed a sense of entitlement that drugs should be able to fix anything.
This has contributed to the development of MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria though the over-use of antibiotics for viral infections such as the common cold (for which they are ineffective) or common infections such as otitis media, which would normally resolve without medical intervention.
Vioxx is another example of a very effective NSAID that was pulled from the market because of over-use. I’ve spoken with MDs who regret the loss of this powerful anti-inflammatory that was removed from their armamentarium mainly because it was over-prescribed to elderly men with heart disease and arthritis who wanted to continue playing golf. One MD I know feels that a black box warning would have been sufficient, plus more physicians willing to tell their patients to take of another hobby.
Jane is absolutely right about the evolution of ED drugs from a niche market to recreational market. Hough Heffner described Viagra as “the world’s greatest recreational drug.”
Unfortunately, physicians often relent to their patients’ demand for a pharmaceutical fix for whatever ails them, and seldom have the time to council their patients on the complex emotional, relationship, and situational components of their complaints. And direct-to-patient advertising has only exacerbated this situation.
But money talks, and pharmaceutical companies are responsible to their shareholders to make money. If inventing a disease and providing a product to cure it makes money, they are obliged to pursue a cure. I work for pharmaceutical companies, and am not unsympathetic to the tremendous financial risks they take to develop new molecules to cure disease.
I agree that the sources of sexual dysfunction are complex and often treatable without medical intervention, but we live in a supply and demand economy, so as long as there is demand the pressure is on the industry to provide products to meet that demand.
Steve: appreciate your perspective and the plug. I agree that certain conditions or problems are complex and cannot be easily solved with a “one-size fits all” approach. In fact, women in particular, experience complex hormonal issues that require more than a pill. Unfortunately, at the moment, the big push is on testosterone, which data show, is wreaking havoc on the female body. Sometimes, we have to leave well enough alone and deal with actual diseases. Sexual dysfunction is a complicated problem with numerous components that must be addressed. Without desire, viagra doesn’t work. As you write, “sexual fulfillment is primarily about a healthy relationship, good communication, and pretty basic technique.” Thanks for writing this important post.