Orgasm Inc.: Search for the Female Viagra

"We are on a race to see who can be first to market," Darby Stephens, their manager of clinical research, tells Canner. "We've come up with the drug, now we have to come up with the disease."

Canner was shocked to learn that a 1999 survey claimed 43 percent of all women suffered from a broad, poorly defined condition, female sexual dysfunction (FSD).

"I had read lots of books and historians of female orgasms and none had mentioned FSD," said Canner. "Where did it come from? It made me uneasy and confused."

And when she asked those who worked at Vivus where the term came from, even founder Virgil Place said on camera, "I don't know."

"A few years later I went back and looked at the footage and realized the discomfort at Vivus among people who worked there," she said. "They didn't want to answer my question."

Vivus took a huge hit on profits when Viagra, known generically as sildenafil citrate, hit the market in 1998. Sales of its own male sexual dysfunction drug Muse dropped from $130 million to $59 million in the first year and continued to decline.

Both drugs worked by allowing the smooth muscles of the penis to relax so that the organ can be filled with enough blood to sustain an erection. But Pfizer's little blue pill had a more comfortable mode of delivery. Muse, a suppository, was inserted into the tip of a penis with a plastic applicator.

Vivus's quest to duplicate Viagra with the female cream Alista for women failed, according to Canner, "because women don't care if they are engorged."

"Viagra doesn't give orgasms, only an erection," she said. "Drugs that do the same thing on women's bodies don't make us any more sexually satisfied."

Vivus said it has "discontinued development" of products for female sexual health, now focusing on drugs for obesity, sleep apnea, diabetes and male sexual health. CFO Timothy Morris declined an interview with ABCNews.com.

"Liz Canner's, 'Orgasm, Inc.' was filmed more than nine years ago, is out of date and does not accurately capture the core focus of Vivus," he said in a prepared statement.

The documentary also follows Proctor and Gamble's failed attempt to get U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for its testosterone patch Intrinsa in 2004. Women's health advocates dismantled the product after finding links to breast cancer.

"Who doesn't want something that increases their desire, but doesn't hurt them?" said Canner. "We all want a drug that puts us in nirvana, but it's so easy for healthy women to end up taking drugs that can kill them."

But Sheryl Kingsberg, chief of the division of behavioral medicine in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, says it is a "disservice" to women to deny them access to medications that might help them.

Antidepressant for Low Sex Drive

"My concern is clearly there is a side to the documentary that is biased and it's unfortunate for women," said Kingsberg. "We would not want to pathologize every woman with a sexual problem."

"We all wax and wane and dismiss the fact that women do struggle with sex problems and are very much in distress by it," she said. "They should not be marginalized or dismissed and not get treatment."

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
null
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...