Sex drive in a patch?

So-called female Viagra available soon in England.

Published March 27, 2007 6:12PM (EDT)

England's good old Daily Mail reports that starting this week, British women hoping to increase their sex drives will be able to get a new prescription patch that some people refer to as a "female Viagra." Called Intrinsa (and created by Procter & Gamble), it's a transparent, egg-shaped patch that you wear below your belly button and change twice a week. It releases a low dose of testosterone, which presumably helps boost flagging sex drives that can be caused by menopause or hysterectomies. (Unlike Viagra, Intrinsa can take weeks to kick in.)

At the moment, the patch is only going to be available by prescription for "post-menopausal women with diagnosed sexual problems," says the Mail. (It's not available in the United States; the FDA nixed its request to be fast-tracked in 2004.) But it doesn't take a genius to figure out that, like Viagra before it, Intrinsa could become a "lifestyle drug," bought over the counter and used by people who don't have any medical problems.

Now don't get me wrong: I think if Intrinsa could help bring sexual satisfaction back to women who feel that they've lost some of their libido, that'd be a good thing. But just as Viagra has set a high standard for men, I worry that Intrinsa (and its eventual knockoffs) will make women with perfectly normal hormones feel like they need to stick a patch on their stomachs to make themselves sexy.

It ties into the bigger issue of so-called female sexual dysfunction, a term first recognized in 1999 that can encompass at least four different conditions: desire, arousal, achieving orgasm and genital pain. As the Mail points out, whereas 90 percent of men's sexual problems are purely physical -- which makes them great candidates for some Viagra treatment -- women's can be more complex. It's unlikely, after all, that one medicine is going to be able to treat all four FSD conditions at once -- which makes me think that we should continue to be wary of plastering our bodies with too many patches before we fully evaluate whether medication is actually the best treatment (or if there's a problem to begin with). After all, last time I checked, covering yourself in band-aids isn't a very effective aphrodisiac.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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