Drug firms search for the new pill for women

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Viagra is for men – but could it be for women too? The world's pharmaceutical companies are investing millions in the search for treatments for female sexual dysfunction. If they succeed they will double an already lucrative market. But women are proving more complicated than men.

Viagra is for men – but could it be for women too? The world's pharmaceutical companies are investing millions in the search for treatments for female sexual dysfunction. If they succeed they will double an already lucrative market. But women are proving more complicated than men.

First there is dispute over what female sexual dysfunction means. Some women dismiss it as sexism. The clinical psychologist Dorothy Rowe said it was "something men dream up when women won't do what they want".

Drugs companies have been accused of creating a new disease so they can profit from it. A paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1999 suggested 43 per cent of women over 18 were sufferers. That finding was based on a study of 1,500 women and probably revealed more about widespread feelings of inadequacy in our sex-focused culture than it did about disease. But the figure has stuck.

One thing seems clear. Female sexual dysfunction is a more complex condition than male impotence. It encompasses lack of desire, lack of arousal, painful intercourse and lack of orgasm. Each may require a different treatment.

According to Shere Hite, the feminist author and sex researcher, drugs companies are ignoring the role of clitoral stimulation in helping women achieve orgasm. "It is not arousal pills we need," Ms Hite says, "but a whole new kind of physical relations."

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