Female Sex-Pill: Gender Equality or Clever Marketing Strategy? from Pharmabuse's blog

The so-called sex pill for women does not crack any medical taboos, but rather runs a very familiar route in Big Pharma's playbook - deceptive manipulation of clinical trial data.  What was different this time, from the other two when the FDA panel rejected Flibanserin, is that Sprout Pharmaceuticals ran a very effective "Even the Score" campaign making gender equality, not medical science, the issue.  Big Pharma, with the help of Madison Avenue, successfully diverted our attention away from what really matters when approving or denying any drug - whether the drug is effective and whether it is safe.

Even panelists who voted to approve the drug this time under public pressure did so reluctantly, expressing concerns about the drug's marginal benefits as demonstrated by the clinical trial data.

In one study, there were 135 clinical trial dropouts on Flibanserin versus only 101 dropouts on placebo. Likewise, in another clinical trial, there were 95 dropouts on 50mg Flibanserin, 114 dropouts on 100mg Flibanserin, versus only 75 dropouts on placebo.

The side effects of the drug caused more subjects taking the drug to drop out of the trials when compared to placebo.  In one study, 53 withdrew due to adverse effects of Flibanserin versus only 20 on placebo.

In typical Pharma fashion, those who dropped out of the clinical trials due to adverse effects did not get tallied in the final results, having the double effect of exaggerating the benefits of the drug while understating its risks.  It would be akin to our public schools boasting that students' test averages have improved, because more students flunked out of school, raising the average of the remaining students.

Even with the skewed clinical trial data, Flibanserin only led women on the drug to have sex one more time per month over women on placebo.  With such meager, albeit exaggerated benefits, to compare Flibanserin with Viagra is to deceive the public.  Viagra actually works.

We are witnessing Pharma's new wave of demographically targeted marketing.  It works, because co-opting existing, often worthy social agendas produces an instant "grassroots" movement.  The clever marketing strategy works just as well in the bedroom as it does in the classroom. Racial equality, for example, has been successfully co-opted by Big Pharma to unnecessarily drug an alarmingly increasing percentage of minority children for "mental disorders" like ADHD, under the banner that they have previously been denied equal access to mental health care.

If gender equality is the crux of the issue regarding Flibanserin, then the disproportionate reaction to a drug with such doubtful benefits shows us that women can be deceived by Big Pharma just as easily as men.

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