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Big media, big pharma and ‘female Viagra’

This week on our Karr on Culture podcast: Last month, the FDA declined to approve a drug called Flibanserin as a treatment for low female sex drive. Media coverage leading up to the decision focused on the potential for a “female Viagra,” but some important details were lost in the publicity blitz.

Since Viagra entered the market 12 years ago, treating male sexual dysfunction has become a $4.4 billion-per-year market. Pharmaceutical companies have been scrambling to replicate the success with a companion drug for women. They project that “female Viagra” could become a $2 billion-per-year industry. German company Boehringer Ingelheim has been promoting a drug called Flibanserin as a treatment for a condition known as hypoactive sexual desire disorder. There is controversy within the medical industry about whether a woman’s lack of sexual desire can be treated or enhanced by a drug. To complicate matters, several leading experts in the field of sexual dysfunction are paid consultants for Boehringer Ingelheim.

Rick Karr first reported on the story in a June podcast. In the wake of the FDA’s ruling, Karr revisits the issue to see how the media presented the story. He focuses on how various news outlets addressed potential conflicts of interest amongst key sources. Karr talks with Jeffrey Dvorkin, a professor of journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto and the former ombudsman of NPR. Dvorkin weighs in on news reports from CBS News, CNN and an ABC affiliate in Cleveland, Ohio, on how the media has handled the “little pink pill.”



  • L D Mitchell

    I was listening to Need To Know tonight (7/2) and looked up in time to see the last seconds of a graphic comparing money spent by some in the health industry in 1993 and 200x. Didn’t hear this referred to in the podcast. Where can I find a copy or the info – the numbers, what segment(s) of the industry were included and what it was spent for (advertising to MDs, mass media promotion, etc. – what)?

  • Shelley Lewis

    Here’s what the graphic that followed the “Little Pink Pill” segment said:

    Total spent by pharmaceutical and health products industries on lobbying in 1999:
    $85, 544,372

    In 2009:
    $267, 776, 211


  • R.C. White

    Please forgive me for being so blunt, but I am a 58 year old woman, never married, no children, and I frankly am quite happy without a man, sexually, emotionally and financially. I think we all would be better off if we left one another alone, sexually. Oneself knows oneself better than anyone else could or better than anyone else takes the time to know another. What’s all the fuss for? Society just wants us to complicate our lives to make everyone else feel better. I’m just fine alone! You need to love yourself before you love another, anyway!! I saw today’s show and just thought what a bunch of money and worry people are doing for nothing over having an orgasm! It’s rather comical to me. Sorry, I just can’t relate and I’m glad.

  • Generic Viagra

    After few days it will be ” Audio: Big media, big pharma and “side effect”.

  • Bpatil8488

    Something interesting is done here. Viagra is a growing medicine and now its available for female also. its rocking.

  • Generic Cialis

    Nice information for the one who is still unaware of such things. Viagra is capturing the market like hell. The growth of viagra is drastically increasing among many youngsters. Viagra can be used for many causes as well. Sexual or Erectile dysfunction can be cured by Viagra.