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Looking for the ‘little pink pill’

This week on our Karr on Culture podcast: Pharmaceutical firms are hoping for a “female Viagra,” while critics say the proposed cures may be snake-oil.

A small pharmaceutical firm hired filmmaker Liz Canner to help with tests of an experimental drug that was designed to increase sexual desire in women. It was also designed to increase profits at the firm that developed it by tapping into a market that analysts think could be worth billions — that is, the half of the population for whom Viagra, Cialis and Levitra don’t work. Canner ended up making a documentary film, “Orgasm, Inc.“, which looks at more than a century of medical efforts to “treat” female sexuality. The latest is up before a regulatory panel on June 18, and while the pharma firm that developed it can’t legally market the drug until regulators give the green light, it can promote the underlying condition it’s supposed to treat, something known as Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. Some scholars of human sexuality say the “disorder” is nonsense — that it pays too much attention to trivial factors and ignores major influences on feminine sexuality. But therapist Gary Greenberg, author of Manufacturing Depression, says “marketing the disease” is par for the course in the world of psychotherapeutic drugs.