Leading article: Sexing up medicine

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The Independent Online

The suggestion that 43 per cent of women are suffering from sexual dysfunction is bound to raise a few prurient headlines. But there is one group of people even more interested in the subject than newspapers. They are the drug companies who use such statistics to raise interest in the possibilities of pharmaceutical solutions. It is revealing that such statistics often come from scientists in the pay of that industry. Perhaps that's why there are so many such surveys around. Some suggest that the number of women affected may be as high as 63 per cent. One of the standard techniques of the modern drugs industry is medicalising conditions and creating new diseases – as they have done with pre-hypertension, pre-diabetes and pre-osteoporosis. This is a trend with which society should not collude.

There are a host of problems here. For a start there is no accepted definition of what dysfunction constitutes. And there is a complex interaction of emotional, psychological and physiological factors at work. Some women with unsatisfactory sex lives may welcome the invention of a female equivalent of Viagra. But many will know that not all problems in life can be solved by popping a pill. They may just want something different from their man.