Challenging the Medicalization of Sex




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FDA 2014

In 2014, “the search for the Pink Viagra” offered the New View Campaign new opportunities for activism.

First, a flagrant marketing tactic disguised as a pro-woman initiative. Sprout Pharmaceuticals and allies created the “Even the Score” campaign, claiming that men had 26 different drugs for sexual dysfunction while women had zero. They insisted that the reason was sexism at the FDA and recruited a few feminist organizations and congresswomen in support.

However, the Even-the-Score claims are outrageous and false. The campaign exploits women’s legitimate concerns about gender bias in medical research as it disseminates phoney sexuality facts. As Barbara Mintzes of the University of British Columbia put it, “It is hard to see what is sexist about the national drug regulatory agency refusing to approve a drug that was ineffective.” The FDA was protecting women’s health when it rejected Intrinsa (2004) and flibanserin (2010).

The New View posted a petition to rebut “Even the Score” which is still available to be signed.

Second, the FDA announced 20 meetings on "Patient focused drug development” to allow clinicians and patients to discuss diseases currently lacking clarity or effective treatments. Most are serious medical conditions, but, yelding to pressure, the FDA also included “FSD” on the list.

The FDA’s hearing on “drug development” for FSD was held in Maryland October 27-28, 2014. Pharmaceutical companies and allies recruited and paid the travel for many women to testify about their suffering from low desire. The New View campaign recruited a few women who do not view sexual problems as medical conditions.

There was also a day devoted to “scientific” issues. The day was filled with arguments over trial outcome measures and diagnosis definitions.

Leonore Tiefer, Ellen Laan and Rosemary Basson wrote a comment in the Journal of Sex Research examining the “Missed opportunities” at the October, 2014 meeting.

The New View is sympathetic to the many women who are unhappy with their sex lives or relationships. But our goal is to support women by insisting that the FDA hold the line against shoddy drug trials with worrisome outcomes. Our points include:

  • the failure of drug trials to consider the meaning of the high placebo effect.
  • the failure of studies to study alternative, nonmedical causes of, and interventions for, women’s sexual complaints.
  • the continuing confusion of “FSD” terminology that actually reflects genuine diversity in women’s sexual experiences and problems. 
  • the serious side effects of all of the “FSD” products being tested.
  • The scandalous saga of all the professionally improper pre-approval marketing campaigns that build a market by escalating distress and misinforming the public.

(PDFs open in a new window)


FACT SHEET 1: Scientific Issues and FSD Trials: Instead of just repeating the past, there can be improvement

FACT SHEET 2: “FSD” Rhetoric: Stripping the decepton from how women become persuaded that low sexual desire is a disease and drugs are the cure

FACT SHEET 3: Feminism and “FSD”: The appropriation and misuse of feminist rhetoric by Big Pharma is reprehensible

FACT SHEET 4: What’s Sexually “Normal”?: Sexual experience, symptoms and reporting are shaped by pharmaceutical marketing

FACT SHEET 5: The Standard, All-Purpose News Article and the New View Campaign Rebuttal: Media coverage of FSD tends to be repetitious and uncritical. We offer the “Standard” along with the New View way of telling the story of female sexual “problems” and their solutions

FACT SHEET 6: Alternative Approaches: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are deamt of in your philosophy” (Hamlet)

FACT SHEET 7: History of FSD Drugs: The hype, the problems & the current status

Pharmed Out flyer #Don’tNeedDrugstoScore

PETITION: end-deceptive-pr-about-womens-sexual-health

COUNTER-NARRATIVES BIBLIOGRAPHY In 2010, The New View Campaign compiled 27 counter-narratives that challenged the perceived value and need for Flibanserin, a drug proposed to treat ‘Hypoactive sexual desire disorder.’ The counter-narratives highlighted the social, cultural, psychological, and interpersonal factors at the core of women’s sexual dissatisfactions and treatment needs. Since 2010, researchers have continued to produce overwhelming evidence that sexual problems are linked to contextual and relational factors far more than to physiological shortcomings. This Bibliography includes another 34 counter-narratives to the medicalized view of women’s sexual problems, extending the 2010 bibliography to 2014, including research published in well-respected journals without industry conflicts of interest.