The crescendo of news in anticipation of an FDA advisory committee’s consideration of the drug flibanserin for hypoactive sexual desire disorder or HSDD is crazy.
And few stories question the oft-cited estimate that up to 40% of women may have this problem. Why don’t they cite the source? Why don’t they explain how flimsy the evidence is for that market-boosting projection?
NBC’s chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, didn’t challenge it in her nightly news story last night.
[2017 Update: This NBC video is no longer available]
And while she did include a sound bite with a gynecologist skeptical about the drug, Dr. Nancy concluded:
“All eyes are on FDA on Friday as to whether women will have to continue to wait.”
Well, let’s slow down a bit. Not all eyes are unblinkingly fixated on their computer screens awaiting that FDA advisory panel’s recommendation. First, their vote doesn’t determine the FDA’s final decision. So there will be at least one more wave of news about this drug. And many of the eyes that are so trained on the news have been whipped into a frenzy by the news itself.
But the phrase “whether women will have to continue to wait” is really loaded. How many are really waiting for a drug to improve their sex life? How many are tired of having yet another antidepressant prescribed for a “female problem”? Many alleged problems of women all end up in the same place: with an antidepressant prescription.
CNN.com published a story that didn’t challenge a sexual medicine doc’s statements that: “HSDD is a horrible tragedy in women” and that this drug would be “the beginning of an era” for women, and that having a safe and effective drugs is a “unique and historic opportunity for women in the U.S. and for the FDA.”
Beginning of an era?
Unique and historic opportunity?
CNN didn’t challenge any of those statements.
Let’s step outside the realm of crazy American hype and peek at what Australian journalist Ray Moynihan wrote:
“In trials on women in the US, compared to placebo, flibanserin offered women an extra 0.7 “satisfying sexual events” per month. In the trials on European women, flibanserin simply failed to beat the dummy pill. With data like that, the drug is going to need all the marketing help it can get.”
That’s data, not drama. Journalism, not disease-mongering promotion of a drug.
Moynihan is co-author of a forthcoming book, “Sex, Lies and Pharmaceuticals: How Drug Companies Plan to Profit from Female Sexual Dysfunction.”
I predict: if and when the FDA rejects this drug, there will be many stories talking about how unfairly women are being treated and how this is rationing.
I, too, may then take an antidepressant. Consider the evidence.
Addendum: As another sign of how unquestioning some news organizations are, on Twitter, @MSNBC_health retweeted this:
RT @SexBrainBody: 3 times as many women are aware of erectile dysfunction (66%) than they are of female sexual dysfunction (20%) http://znl.me/BYH-Q6 #SXBB
FYI: @SexBrainBody, and the URL have “content developed with the support of a sponsorship from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.” – which is the maker of flibanserin. Gee, could the rest of us get free advertising from MSNBC that easily?