Women Lacking Libido Aren't Sick

Birth of a "pink Viagra" would wrongly medicalize low libido, says Leonore Tiefer.


A lot of people accuse me of drumming up business for sex therapy, which is not true. I don't think sex therapy is necessarily a better solution than medical treatment. I'm arguing against the treatment mentality.

What do you think will happen when one of these drugs is finally approved for women?

I think it will be advertised out of the ballpark. I think it will be a calamity. Why?

Because these drugs will be promoted and prescribed greatly in excess of what they're approved for—what they've been tested for—as we've seen happen with all the blockbuster drugs that are million-dollar babies of the pharmaceutical pantheon. And time and time again these overprescribed, overpromoted drugs have turned out to have dangers, as with antidepressants or Vioxx. But I feel that if I hold out long enough, the notion that safety is extremely more important than consumer demand will become self-evident. Why do you think it's dangerous to consider using a drug for what you view as natural changes that women experience?

I think it's dangerous because drugs are toxic substances with limited beneficial "side" effects. And certainly the drugs that are being proposed for women, which are very different from Viagra, are not just washout drugs limited to end-organ temporary effects. They're steroid hormones. We have the right to be as naive as we were 10 years ago [with Viagra]. There's too much water under this bridge. What's the bottom line?

Let the people who know what they're doing decide whether proposed drugs have demonstrated safety and efficacy. Don't take unapproved drugs; wait for the government to make a ruling. Meanwhile, try to think about sex as a really unique thing.