Is There A Viagra for Women?

Viagra is one of the most well-known medications worldwide. 

This medication helps men achieve and maintain an erection for pleasurable intercourse. 

Men with erectile dysfunction (ED) have various options to manage their sexual problems, but Viagra is among the most common pharmaceutical approaches. 

But what about Viagra for women? 

Does it exist? How does it work? How does it compare to men’s Viagra? Read on to find out.

Can women take Viagra?

At the very beginning, it’s important to clarify that The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not approve Viagra (sildenafil) for use in women. However, some healthcare providers may still prescribe Viagra for off-label use, even to ladies. 

This usually happens in cases of female sexual dysfunction (FSD). Female sexual dysfunction is not an illness per se, but it can cause a lack of sexual desire and other problems that affect a woman’s experience during sexual activity. 

The presence of FSD can cause a lot of stress and affect a woman’s confidence. That’s where Viagra may step in. Women can take Viagra under some circumstances, but it is not approved for this form of use. 

While some doctors may prescribe Viagra for women, it doesn’t mean you should take it. Many medications target women’s needs specifically. That way, it’s easier to achieve better results.

What does Viagra do to females?

In order to understand what Viagra does to females, it’s useful to understand how it functions in men. In males, Viagra works to increase blood flow to the penis

It belongs to a class of drugs called phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors. These medications stimulate the formation of the cGMP enzyme, thereby producing nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and increases penile blood flow (1). This leads to penile engorgement and erection.

Viagra’s mechanism of action is similar among women, too. The medication increases blood flow to the female genital area, thereby producing more arousal and stimulation. This adds to sensitivity and may improve the quality of a woman’s sexual intercourse. 

For example, a study from the Drug Design, Development and Therapy found that treatment with Viagra improved arousal satisfaction, orgasm, and lubrication (2). But, some studies didn’t see these positive results. 

In one study, the use of Viagra for the treatment of FSD was unsuccessful (3). More research is necessary to elucidate the role of Viagra in women and the potential benefits or risks that may occur. 

Speaking of risks, common adverse reactions of Viagra in women include nasal congestion, headache, flushing, visual disturbances, palpitations, and indigestion. 

Is there a women’s Viagra?

Viagra is a brand-name drug developed for men with erectile dysfunction. When you put it that way, there is no women’s Viagra per se. 

However, some medications are specifically created to improve sexual desire or libido in women. One of these medications is flibanserin (Addyi). You’re going to learn more about this drug below. 

viagra-side-effects

What is Flibanserin (Addyi)?

Flibanserin, available under the brand name Addyi, is an FDA-approved medication for women with low sexual desire. More specifically, the FDA approved flibanserin in August 2015 to treat female sexual interest or arousal disorder of any severity. 

Doctors usually prescribe it for women with serious sex arousal problems and those who didn’t experience improvements with lifestyle modifications. 

Addyi has the nickname “female Viagra“ because the tablets are pink and Viagra is blue. That being said, these medications are different drugs with different intentions.

Besides Addyi, the most well-known medication of this kind for women, bremelanotide (Vyleesi) is also an option. Vyleesi is an injection that a woman needs to inject into the skin of her thigh or abdomen around 45 minutes before sexual activity. 

Regardless of the medication for female sex drive, it is important to remember that these drugs don’t treat relationship problems. In other words, they can help with the physical aspects of your problem but will not fix the mental health component. 

Where can you buy Addyi?

Since Addyi is a prescription medicine, it is only available through a restricted program in certified pharmacies. You can’t go online and buy it online. At least not legally! 

Nowadays, it’s not that difficult to stumble upon imitations of Addyi online. You should stay away from those since their safety profile is unknown. 

While the price of Addyi varies from one pharmacy to another, the medication is generally on the expensive side. One-month supply costs around $560. For that reason, it’s useful to check health insurance coverage in order to reduce your expenses. 

addyi side effects

Addyi vs Viagra

As mentioned above, Addyi and Viagra are often referred to as male and female Viagra. They’re not the same, though. 

Viagra is an FDA-approved medication for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Doctors can prescribe it off-label for other problems. On the flip side, Addyi is an FDA-approved medication for women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder. 

While it is necessary to take Viagra about 30 to 40 minutes before sexual intercourse, Addyi is taken every day, at night before bedtime. 

Even though impotence medications like Viagra function by directing blood to the genitals, Addyi works primarily on the brain to increase desire. More precisely, Addyi influences the part of the brain that regulates sexual motivation and response.

Viagra is approved for adult males, regardless of age. It works on older men too. On the flip side, Addyi is a premenstrual medication, meaning it’s not suitable for women of all ages.

Three strengths of Viagra are available. They are 25mg, 50mg, and 100mg. Addyi is available in a dosage of 100mg.

Purpose and benefits of Addyi 

As mentioned above, Addyi is a medication that treats low sexual drive or lack of desire to participate in sexual activity. It’s important to mention that Addyi is not prescribed for women whose sexual difficulties result from coexisting medical or psychiatric conditions or those with relationship problems. Addyi also isn’t intended for women whose low sex drive occurs as a side effect of other medications.

Clinical trials demonstrated the modest efficacy of Addyi for increasing satisfying sexual encounters and female sexual interest/arousal disorder scores. The treatment with Addyi could lead to an additional one-half satisfying sexual encounters per month. Further research is necessary to evaluate the long-term effects of this medication (4).

The medication is created specifically for women who meet the following criteria:

  • Haven’t gone through menopause yet.
  • No history of sexual problems back in the past.
  • Absence of sexual desire, regardless of the situation or partner’s efforts.
  • Frustration, worry, or incompetence due to lack of sexual arousal. 
  • Lack of sexual arousal that doesn’t stem from other medical problems, and it has a significant impact on a patient’s relationship and quality of life. 

How does Addyi work?

Addyi is a non-hormonal drug. Instead, it is a psychotropic medication that works in such a way to balance brain chemicals that may be responsible for lower sex drive in some women. 

More precisely, Addyi acts on serotonergic neurons in the brain and also corrects the imbalance of dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which are important for sexual excitement. 

While dopamine increases sexual desire, norepinephrine promotes sexual arousal. The neurotransmitter serotonin puts the brake on the desire to have sex. Treatment with Addyi acts on this braking system to boost a patient’s libido again (5).

It’s useful to mention the exact mechanism of action associated with Addyi is still largely unclear. Further studies are necessary to elucidate how the drug works on cellular levels. 

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Effectiveness

The effectiveness of Addyi is not explored enough. Current evidence shows promising results, though. As mentioned above, Addyi could increase satisfying sexual encounters among patients who take this therapy. 

A review from JAMA Internal Medicine found women’s average global impression of the improvement scores indicated minimal improvement to no change. 

Scientists explain it’s necessary to carry out studies on women from diverse populations, especially women with comorbidities, surgical menopause, and medication use (6).

When it comes to the effectiveness of Addyi, many consider this medication controversial. 

One paper discussed that although the drug serves as the lamp in the light in the long search for a solution to female sexual problems, it induces various side effects. Scientists explain women need to be educated about adverse reactions linked to this medication (7).

All in all, Addyi shows potential in treating low sexual arousal in women. The medication still has a long way to go. 

How long does Addyi take to work?

Addyi usually shows improvements around two to four weeks after women start taking the medication. The maximum results may occur in eight to twelve weeks. 

If you use Addyi for up to three months and there are no signs of positive improvements, consult the doctor. A healthcare provider may advise you to stop taking the medication as it may not work on you.

How long does Addyi last?

The effects of Addyi last approximately 11 hours. If a woman has a mild liver problem, then Addyi remains in the system for 26 hours. Keep in mind that absorption of the medicine into the body increases when you take it with food. 

After three days of taking the drug, the body already has a steady level of medicine in the system. That said, some people don’t metabolize effectively an enzyme protein called CYP2C19. In turn, the concentration of drugs in the system may accumulate and increase the risk of side effects. 

Side effects and risks of Addyi

All medications come with a certain risk of side effects, and Addyi is not the exception. In fact, Addyi carries a risk of various adverse reactions, and these are the most common:

  • Drowsiness and/or sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Tiredness

Some patients may experience severe side effects from Addyi that require immediate medical attention. This is mainly in the case of low blood pressure. The symptoms include: 

  • Fainting
  • Blue skin tone
  • Fast breathing
  • Cold and sweaty skin
  • Weak and rapid heartbeat
  • Severe dizziness or lightheadedness

Further research is necessary to determine the long-term side effects of this medication. 

Warnings and interactions

Women with liver problems shouldn’t use Addyi. Before the doctor prescribes this medication, it’s important to make sure they’re informed about supplements and other drugs you’re taking. 

Due to interactions, the doctor will not prescribe Addyi if you’re using certain drugs. This medication interacts with the following:

  • Supplements such as St. John’s wort
  • Antidepressant nefazodone (Dutonin, Nefadar, Serzone)
  • HIV medications such as indinavir (Crixivan) and ritonavir (Norvir)
  • Antifungal medications such as itraconazole (Sporanox) and fluconazole (Diflucan)
  • Some antibiotics such as erythromycin (Ery-Tab) and ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
  • Some medications for cardiovascular conditions such as verapamil (Verelan) and diltiazem (Cardizem CD)

All the abovementioned medications inhibit the CYP3A4 enzyme.

At the same time, women who take this medication should avoid drinking grapefruit juice and alcohol. Grapefruit juice also inhibits the liver enzyme, thereby increasing the risk of adverse reactions.

Upon the approval of Addyi, FDA advised patients to abstain from alcohol intake entirely due to the high risk of severe hypotension. In April 2019, they updated this decision. 

According to the FDA, patients who take Addyi don’t need to avoid alcohol entirely, but they should stop drinking alcohol at least two hours before taking this medication at bedtime. Women should avoid drinking alcohol until the next morning. 

However, just to be on the safe side, you may want to consult the doctor about alcohol intake. 

metformin and grapefruit

Are there any natural Viagras for women?

Women with low sexual arousal have the option to use pharmaceutical treatment to improve their libido if the problem doesn’t result from other factors. However, medications come with a certain risk of side effects. It’s natural to wonder if there’s a way to boost libido naturally. 

There is! 

Various natural sources can do wonders for libido in women. Some of them are:

  • Red wine – may increase blood flow and thereby boost libido.
  • Red clover – contains phytoestrogens that may improve sleep, mood, and libido.
  • Some foods – stimulate the senses and exhibit positive effects on libido. These include pomegranates, chocolate, avocado, nuts, berries, honey, and figs.
  • Tribulus Terrestris – may enhance sexual pleasure.
  • Ashwagandha – may boost libido and alleviate stress responsible for sexual dysfunction thanks to two acyl steryl glycosides called sitoindoside VII and sitoindoside VIII.
  • Damiana (turnera diffusa) – boosts sexual arousal by delivering more oxygen to the genital region.
  • Maca – increases sexual desire and tackles the side effects of antidepressants that lead to low libido.
  • Horny goat weed – beneficial for postmenopausal women with vaginal dryness and low sex drive.
  • Korean red ginseng – relaxes the clitoris and thereby boosts sexual desire.
  • Ginkgo biloba – increases the production of nitric oxide, improves blood flow, and supports sexual function.

Conclusion

Women experience sexual problems, just like men. While men have various options to improve their sexual functioning, women don’t. 

Nowadays, women have the option to use female Viagra, i.e., a medication that is created specifically to help them increase sexual arousal. This medication only works for women whose sexual problems don’t result from other conditions. 

While some studies show these drugs are beneficial, the risk of side effects is high. Natural libido boosters are a healthier option.

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Sources

  1. Dhaliwal A, Gupta M. PDE5 Inhibitors. [Updated 2022 Apr 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549843/
  2. Lo Monte G, Graziano A, Piva I, Marci R. Women taking the “blue pill” (sildenafil citrate): such a big deal?. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2014;8:2251-2254. Published 2014 Nov 7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4232035/
  3. Basson R, McInnes R, Smith MD, Hodgson G, Koppiker N. Efficacy and safety of sildenafil citrate in women with sexual dysfunction associated with female sexual arousal disorder. J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 2002. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12150499/
  4. English C, Muhleisen A, Rey JA. Flibanserin (Addyi): The First FDA-Approved Treatment for Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder in Premenopausal Women. P T. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5358680/
  5. Stahl SM, Sommer B, Allers KA. Multifunctional pharmacology of flibanserin: possible mechanism of therapeutic action in hypoactive sexual desire disorder. J Sex Med. 2011. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20840530/
  6. Jaspers L, Feys F, Bramer WM, Franco OH, Leusink P, Laan ET. Efficacy and Safety of Flibanserin for the Treatment of Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder in Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2016. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26927498/
  7. Baid R, Agarwal R. Flibanserin: A controversial drug for female hypoactive sexual desire disorder. Ind Psychiatry J. 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6198608/

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