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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.”