| Female Sexual Problems Being 'Medicalized'
NEW YORK (Reuters
Health) - The drug industry is attempting
to "medicalize" female sexual problems under the umbrella term
"female sexual dysfunction," creating a disorder to build a market
for new drugs, according to some experts.
But not all experts share this
opinion. And some voice concerns that accusing the drug industry
of over-inflating the problem will cause medical professionals
to overlook the women who truly suffer from debilitating sexual
Drug company financial backing
of discussions regarding the disease itself and how to treat it
may be the best way to bring these women relief, according to
Dr. Irwin Goldstein of Boston University.
"We desperately need therapy, research,
and diagnosis," Goldstein told Reuters Health. "More than anyone
In the January 4 issue of the British
Medical Journal, journalist Ray Moynihan claims that, after the
success of Viagra for treating men's sexual problems, drug companies
are looking to make money off drugs that treat sexual problems
But there must be a disease before
there can be a drug to treat it, Moynihan argues, and the drug
industry is actively pushing the idea of female sexual dysfunction
as a medical problem that needs treatment, priming women to buy
up new products the second they emerge.
Techniques used to publicize female
sexual dysfunction include over-inflating the prevalence of the
problem and sponsoring numerous medical meetings on the topic,
Drug companies often argue that
43% of women suffer from sexual dysfunction, a figure first cited
in a 1999 article from the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The number is based on responses from 1,500 women who reported
whether or not they had experienced a sex-related problem for
at least 2 months, such as lack of desire and lack of lubrication.
Many researchers have since criticized
this figure, Moynihan writes, noting that changes in sexual desire
are normal, and not necessarily a sign of a "disease."
Ed Laumann of the University of
Chicago, one of the original authors of the JAMA article, told
Reuters Health that many of the sexual difficulties in the study
participants appeared to be linked to other problems. For instance,
women whose income had dropped by 20% in recent years were more
likely to report feeling sexual problems. Another set of results
showed that women in their 20s who have children younger than
6 are up to 3 times as likely to report a lack of interest in
sex, he said.
Many women may feel a lack of sex
because they are under stress or exhausted, Laumann said. While
a pill that restores desire might help some of those women, "that's
a therapeutic that would address dysfunction without really solving
the more general problem," he said.
And lumping all women with sexual
problems under the category of a disease that needs a pharmaceutical
treatment may be a "fundamental misinterpretation of what sexuality
is all about," Laumann added.
In an interview, Goldstein said
he agrees that not all women with sexual problems can be helped
with a pill, but that the problem is serious and deserves the
attention of the research community. He added that 43% is likely
an accurate figure for how many women have sexual problems, but
that many are not bothered enough by their troubles to seek medical
"Not all 43% of people are banging
down doctors' doors," he said.
Moynihan cites as evidence the
drug industry is molding female sexual problems to its own benefit
the fact that all but one of the recent 7 meetings on the topic
have included up to 22 different drug company sponsors.
That fact is irrefutable, Goldstein
noted, but "virtually all" medical meetings have the sponsorship
of drug companies. And the money comes in the form of "unrestricted
educational grants," he added.
"There's no way that we would allow
the drug companies to tell us the content, tell us what to say,"
Moynihan notes in the current report
that Goldstein is a "regular speaker" and drug industry-funded
meetings, and serves as a consultant to many drug companies.
SOURCE: British Medical Journal
Reference Source 89