Viagra for Women. Is it a myth?

Viagra for women: Decoding the misconception


Viagra® is a brand name for an oral drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1988. Men worldwide take it to treat Erectile Dysfunction (ED).

From time immemorial, an erect penis represents a man’s virility and masculinity. Inability to engage in sexual activity can cause frustration and anxiety in both men and women. Hence, considering the success of Viagra in treating erectile dysfunction among men, drug companies have sought to develop a Viagra like drug for women.

Are women also prone to sexual dysfunction like men?

Approximately 43% of women and 31% of men suffer from sexual dysfunctions. The most common form of sexual dysfunction among women is Hypoactive Sexual Desire while among men, it is the ED.

Viagra has Sildenafil as an active ingredient. The Sildenafil has vasoactive properties that relax the smooth muscles of the blood vessels supplying the penis. This allows blood to enter the penis and causes an erection of the penis.

Similarly in women, Sildenafil increases blood supply to the clitoris and helps in increasing lubrication. However, it does not play a role in sexual excitement or arousal.

Female analogous to Viagra. Does it exist?

The use of Viagra has transformed the lives of men agonized with ED by providing temporary erections. It is noteworthy, that Viagra aids sexual performance by bestowing transient penile erection, not sexual arousal. Because of this, Viagra is only available and marketed to men who suffer from ED.

Clinical trials in women failed to prove that Viagra could provide similar results when used for the treatment of low-sex desire.

For many years there were no FDA-approved drugs for treating problems with sexual arousal or sexual desire in women. The drug approved by FDA  as an alternative to treat sexual dysfunction in women is an antidepressant drug.

Women and Viagra: Why does not it work?

It is not only biological factors that influence women’s sexuality, but also emotional, psychological, and societal influences.

The contributing factors for complex female sexual response are:

  • Emotional stress and psychological factors
  • Pregnancy and menopause that bring changes in hormonal level
  • Social taboos, socio-economic and socio-cultural aspects

Sildenafil has been tried as a treatment for sexual dysfunction in women as well. Clinical trials in this field, however, failed to find conclusive results in treating sexual dysfunction among women. The complex combination of hormonal and non-hormonal factors plays a key role in sexual arousal desire. Therefore, the company that developed Viagra for the treatment of ED in men decided not to apply for approval for Viagra to treat Female Sexual Arousal Disorder (FSAD).

At present, Viagra is not available as a drug to treat sexual dysfunction in women. It is not possible to treat low sexual desire in women with the same drug (Viagra) that men use . The treatment must be gender-specific.

If Viagra doesn’t work for women, what is “Viagra for women” ?

Several products are available on the market that advertise themselves as “Viagra for women”. These are drugs that help boost sexual desire among women. This product does not contain any active ingredients of Viagra, nor does it act the same way as Viagra.

To treat low sexual desire in premenopausal women, Flibanserin (Addyi) was approved by the FDA, which was originally developed as an antidepressant. Thus, it is sometimes called “Viagra for women” or “pink Viagra”. It affects dopamine indirectly by changing the brain’s serotonin system and influencing arousal.

Take home message

Men are using Viagra for quite some time and there are no safety concerns with this medication. Its side effects are well-known and documented. However, there is not much research on the side effects of Viagra on women. There is no evidence that Viagra or other sildenafil-related drugs can bring or elevate women’s sexual satisfaction

The treatment of low sex desire in women is more complex, and the same medications used in men are not effective. Therefore, therapy in women should include a combination of medication, counselling, and exercise in addition to medicine.

My name is Rajni. I am a pathologist and an aspiring medical writer, I also hold a master’s degree in Molecular Pathology of Cancer from Queen’s University, Belfast, UK. My thesis on the analysis of next-generation sequencing gives insight into the future of molecular diagnostics. Topics that interest me include the molecular pathology, the role of genetic testing in cancer prevention and diagnosis, hematology, oncology, cytology, immunology, digital pathology, targeted therapy and precision medicine.

You can contact us for any medical writing or scientific communications.

3 Replies to “Viagra for Women. Is it a myth?”

  1. Very informative and well explained … there are very few article with such intricate details ..👍👍

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