We’ve all heard of Viagra. It’s often lauded as the world’s fastest selling pharmaceutical, and has been used to treat erectile dysfunction since 1998.

However Pfizer, the manufacturers of this drug, only make Viagra for men. And while the male population has benefited from this and several other scientific breakthroughs in ED medication, women experiencing sexual function problems, such as loss of libido, have significantly fewer options.

So what about Viagra for women? Is 'female Viagra' or a similar such treatment on the horizon?

Let’s take a look at the current situation and address some of the most frequently posed queries about the treatments available for women experiencing libido issues:

Can women take Viagra?

No. Sildenafil is specifically indicated for the treatment of male erectile dysfunction. Viagra is therefore not suitable, or licensed, for use by women.

What happens if a woman takes Viagra?

It isn’t entirely clear. There has been some research undertaken to see whether or not Viagra does work in women.

One notable study came out of the University of California-Los Angeles in 2003. The preliminary findings suggested that some postmenopausal women with female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD) noted an improvement in symptoms following treatment with sildenafil, and that the drug was also well tolerated.

Speaking to ABC News, the theory put forward by Laura Berman, one of the authors of the study, was that perhaps the drug facilitated better blood flow to the genitals, and this helped to enhance sensory pleasure (such as feelings of ‘tingling’ and ‘warmth’) during sex.

But subsequent studies have not produced results that support this, which has led many experts to believe that the improvements noted by the women in the 2003 study were an aberration.

Furthermore, this area of research has not been explored extensively, so the long term effects and safety profile of Viagra use in women has not been determined.

Does Viagra for women exist?

In simple terms, no.

The closest thing is the generic drug Flibanserin, which has been referred to as ‘female viagra’. The so-called ‘little pink pill’ is manufactured by Valeant Pharmaceuticals under the brand name of Addyi.

The mechanisms it performs within the body are very different to those carried out by the traditional form of Viagra for men. However, it received this name because it is the first drug to address female sexual dysfunction.

Viagra for women is a term which is not strictly accurate when referring to this drug as Addyi does not enhance female sexual performance per se. Instead it is supposed to increase the number of sexually satisfying events experienced by the patient per month.

Under research conditions Addyi was found to increase the number of sexually satisfying events by between 0.5 to one per individual per month.

Addyi received approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in August 2015. It subsequently became available for use in the treatment of premenopausal females diagnosed with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in October 2015.

What is hypoactive sexual desire disorder?

This condition refers to a chronic loss of libido, the conscious or unconscious desire for sexual activity, to the point where it may cause distress or problems within a relationship.

It is thought that HSDD is the most common of the female sexual dysfunctions.

HSDD can be difficult to measure as each individual’s ‘normal’ level of sexual desire can differ. It is also pertinent to mention that libido in both men and women can also be affected by a plethora of factors including medication and mental health.

This means that it can be difficult to diagnose the condition, and may go some way to explaining why research into treatments in this area, such as the oft speculated on Viagra for women, is still relatively sparse.

How does Flibanserin treat HSDD?

Flibanserin is not a hormone and unlike Viagra for men it does not have an effect on patient blood flow. Instead it is said to regulate chemicals in the brain thought to be involved with levels of sexual desire.

The exact methods are not fully understood but the action is said to be carried out in the central nervous system. An imbalance of dopamine and norepinephrine is corrected and serotonin levels reduced. Dopamine and norepinephrine are both involved in feelings of sexual excitement whilst serotonin is linked to inhibition.

Once again, other than the fact that it is a drug with a sexual application, flibanserin shares very little in common with sildenafil, meaning the Viagra for women label is purely a media invention and not based on science.

Can I buy this medicine in the UK?

The European Medicines Agency has not approved Flibanserin and so it cannot be prescribed or sold in the UK at this time.

If you come across a website selling what it claims is Viagra for women in the UK there is a high possibility that it is working illegally. Drugs being sold through illicit sites could be counterfeit and even dangerous; pharmacies selling Viagra for men are subject to strict regulations, and you should always use caution when buying online. You can learn more about how to spot online pharmacy scams here.

Even though Flibanserin treatment is not available in the UK you can still approach your doctor about HSDD.

A change in your libido level can be caused by several factors for which your doctor might be able to offer another form of treatment or support.

Page last reviewed:  26/10/2017