U.S. News & World Report
May 19, 2010
Not interested in sex? Perhaps you have a condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder, caused by a brain chemical imbalance. That’s the message conveyed in a new “educational campaign” launched last week by the Society of Women’s Health Research with actress Lisa Rinna as a celebrity spokesperson talking about “the brain’s potential role in desire.” On the campaign’s new website, you might conclude that if you’re not fantasizing about sex a lot you should definitely talk to your doctor.
You won’t, though, learn about any medications for HSDD—because there are no approved drugs for it. A new drug, called flibanserin, may be approved by the Food and Drug Administration after its advisory committee meets to discuss the drug next month. In the meantime, flibanserin manufacturer Boehringer-Ingelheim has funded an HSDD educational campaign to create demand for the drug, some experts say. And, yes, Rinna is a paid spokesperson.
“It’s like priming the market,” says Lisa Schwartz, an associate professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, N.H. “Disease awareness is a very important part of [preparing for] an upcoming ad campaign” for any new drug—which will no doubt occur if and when flibanserin is approved. (I previously reported on the over-medicalization of low sexual desire in women.)
Unfortunately, the website doesn’t provide much useful information about the low sex drive condition, which was first identified in the 1970s and is included in the psychiatric bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder. You wouldn’t learn from the website, for example, that certain medications—including antidepressants, birth control pills and antihypertensives—can dampen your sex drive. Nor would you learn about the usefulness of psychological treatments like psychotherapy or mindfulness training. And the website doesn’t differentiate between “situational” HSDD, caused by lifestyle factors like lack of sleep, breastfeeding, stress, and relationship issues, and “generalized” HSDD, which may arise from some sort or physiological problem, like low testosterone levels or a brain chemical imbalance. In this interview with Fox News, Rinna said she lost her sex drive soon after her second child was born, which, according to experts, means she probably had some explainable reason like excess fatigue or low sex hormones due to nursing.