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MIT Technology Review

Female Viagra Is Found Lacking as “Predatory” Drugmaker Valeant Falls Further

The drug company has earned the ire of Hillary Clinton, is under several investigations, and was met with a collective “meh” from women who tried its “female Viagra” pill.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton released a campaign ad promising to go after a Canadian drug company for its “predatory” price hikes, including one for a drug that increased from $180 to $14,700, according to Fortune

“The company is called Valeant Pharmaceuticals,” Clinton says in the ad. “I’m going after them.”

She’s not the only one.

The company is facing a wave of bad news: it’s under investigation by regulators in at least two states and the U.S. government, and its most notorious product—a controversial pill called the “female Viagra”—isn’t pleasing many people, either.

The drug, flibanserin, leads to only an extra “one-half” a satisfying sexual encounter per month, according to a study published on Monday.

Marketed under the name Addyi, the drug was controversial even before being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last summer, after two earlier rejections. But regulators were pressured by activist groups, who noted that there are several drugs sold to boost male sexual performance. 

Addyi treats “hypoactive sexual desire disorder,” which according to Bloomberg is “a condition marked by little or no sexual desire or fantasy life and that causes the patient distress.”

Researchers, including one who’d opposed the drug’s approval, reported this week that women taking the drug had “one-half of an additional sexually satisfying encounter per month,” leaving details of the fraction to the imagination of readers.

Since the drug has side effects, like nausea and fatigue, many experts don’t see why it was approved. Poor sales—it’s on track to bring in $11 million in 2016, versus the $100 to $150 million that Valeant initially forecast, according to the New York Times—suggest that the drug hasn’t transformed many sex lives. 

But what’s really hurting Valeant’s mojo is public outrage over the company's habit of jacking up drug prices. According to Bloomberg, the company’s stock value has fallen by more than 66 percent in recent months, and it fell even further Monday after Valeant disclosed that it was under at least four investigations by U.S. securities regulators and by Congress.

In an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association flush with unfortunate puns, two Dartmouth College doctors called the story of flibanserin “unsatisfying.”

“The FDA approved a marginally effective drug for a non-life-threatening condition in the face of substantial—and unnecessary—uncertainty about its dangers,” they wrote.

(Read more: Fortune, New York Times, Reuters, Bloomberg)