The first-ever pill designed to boost women's libido has had an anticlimactic launch. According to a report from Bloomberg, there have been only 227 prescriptions for Addyi (pronounced "add-ee") in its first two weeks on sale — a low figure compared to the more than half a million men who were prescribed Viagra during its first month on sale in 1998.
too many side effects, not enough actual effects
However, this isn't necessarily a straightforward reflection of demand, but also of the pill's underwhelming performance. In clinical trials, around 8 to 13 percent of women who took the drug daily experienced on average only 0.5 more "sexually satisfying" events per month. Addyi also has a number of side effects including drowsiness, dizziness, and fainting, and although at around $26 a pill it's roughly the same price as Viagra, unlike Viagra it has to be taken daily to have an effect. Doctors also have to be certified to prescribe the drug, and as of November 10th, only around 5,600 of the 435,000 active physicians in the US had been cleared to do so.
All of these factors will have an effect on demand, but perhaps most important, is the fact that Viagra is dealing with a physiological issue — treating erectile dysfunction by increasing blood flow to the penis — while Addyi is designed to influence the libido. Helping people who want to have sex but can't is a very different problem to helping people want to have sex, so it's perhaps no surprise that demand for these drugs has been very different too.