One of the most common complaints that we hear at the office is decreased libido or loss of sexual desire. Honestly, we all go through times ourselves when the desire is just “not there”. Many have asked for medicinal help but until now it was not available. Viagra has been on the market for a while now for men. Now, there is something new for women to try. This week The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first treatment for sexual desire disorder for women. Here is what they say about this “miracle” drug.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Addyi (flibanserin) to treat acquired, generalized hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in premenopausal women. Prior to Addyi’s approval, there were no FDA-approved treatments for sexual desire disorders in men or women.
“Today’s approval provides women distressed by their low sexual desire with an approved treatment option,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). “The FDA strives to protect and advance the health of women, and we are committed to supporting the development of safe and effective treatments for female sexual dysfunction.”
HSDD is characterized by low sexual desire that causes marked distress or interpersonal difficulty and is not due to a co-existing medical or psychiatric condition, problems within the relationship, or the effects of a medication or other drug substance. HSDD is acquired when it develops in a patient who previously had no problems with sexual desire. HSDD is generalized when it occurs regardless of the type of sexual activity, the situation or the sexual partner.
“Because of a potentially serious interaction with alcohol, treatment with Addyi will only be available through certified health care professionals and certified pharmacies,” continued Dr. Woodcock. “Patients and prescribers should fully understand the risks associated with the use of Addyi before considering treatment.”
Addyi can cause severely low blood pressure (hypotension) and loss of consciousness (syncope). These risks are increased and more severe when patients drink alcohol or take Addyi with certain medicines (known as moderate or strong CYP3A4 inhibitors) that interfere with the breakdown of Addyi in the body. Because of the alcohol interaction, the use of alcohol is contraindicated while taking Addyi. Health care professionals must assess the likelihood of the patient reliably abstaining from alcohol before prescribing Addyi.
Addyi is being approved with a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS), which includes elements to assure safe use (ETASU). The FDA is requiring this REMS because of the increased risk of severe hypotension and syncope due to the interaction between Addyi and alcohol. The REMS requires that prescribers be certified with the REMS program by enrolling and completing training. Certified prescribers must counsel patients using a Patient-Provider Agreement Form about the increased risk of severe hypotension and syncope and about the importance of not drinking alcohol during treatment with Addyi. Additionally, pharmacies must be certified with the REMS program by enrolling and completing training. Certified pharmacies must only dispense Addyi to patients with a prescription from a certified prescriber. Additionally, pharmacists must counsel patients prior to dispensing not to drink alcohol during treatment with Addyi.
Addyi is also being approved with a Boxed Warning to highlight the risks of severe hypotension and syncope in patients who drink alcohol during treatment with Addyi, in those who also use moderate or strong CYP3A4 inhibitors, and in those who have liver impairment. Addyi is contraindicated in these patients. In addition, the FDA is requiring the company that owns Addyi to conduct three well-designed studies in women to better understand the known serious risks of the interaction between Addyi and alcohol.
Addyi is a serotonin 1A receptor agonist and a serotonin 2A receptor antagonist, but the mechanism by which the drug improves sexual desire and related distress is not known. Addyi is taken once daily. It is dosed at bedtime to help decrease the risk of adverse events occurring due to possible hypotension, syncope and central nervous system depression (such as sleepiness and sedation). Patients should discontinue treatment after eight weeks if they do not report an improvement in sexual desire and associated distress.
The effectiveness of the 100 mg bedtime dose of Addyi was evaluated in three 24-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials in about 2,400 premenopausal women with acquired, generalized HSDD. The average age of the trial participants was 36 years, with an average duration of HSDD of approximately five years. In these trials, women counted the number of satisfying sexual events, reported sexual desire over the preceding four weeks (scored on a range of 1.2 to 6.0) and reported distress related to low sexual desire (on a range of 0 to 4). On average, treatment with Addyi increased the number of satisfying sexual events by 0.5 to one additional event per month over placebo increased the sexual desire score by 0.3 to 0.4 over placebo, and decreased the distress score related to sexual desire by 0.3 to 0.4 over placebo. Additional analyses explored whether the improvements with Addyi were meaningful to patients, taking into account the effects of treatment seen among those patients who reported feeling much improved or very much improved overall. Across the three trials, about 10 percent more Addyi-treated patients than placebo-treated patients reported meaningful improvements in satisfying sexual events, sexual desire or distress. Addyi has not been shown to enhance sexual performance.
The 100 mg bedtime dose of Addyi has been administered to about 3,000 generally healthy premenopausal women with acquired, generalized HSDD in clinical trials, of whom about 1,700 received treatment for at least six months and 850 received treatment for at least one year.
The most common adverse reactions associated with the use of Addyi are dizziness, somnolence (sleepiness), nausea, fatigue, insomnia and dry mouth.
The FDA has recognized for some time the challenges involved in developing treatments for female sexual dysfunction. The FDA held a public Patient-Focused Drug Development meeting and scientific workshop on female sexual dysfunction on October 27 and October 28, 2014, to solicit perspectives directly from patients about their condition and its impact on daily life, and to discuss the scientific challenges related to developing drugs to treat these disorders. The FDA continues to encourage drug development in this area.
Consumers and health care professionals are encouraged to report adverse reactions from the use of Addyi to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program at www.fda.gov/MedWatch or by calling 1-800-FDA-1088.
Addyi is marketed by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, based in Raleigh, North Carolina.