Thursday, April 28, 2016

Whatevever Happened to Filbanserin, the "Female Viagra" Drug?

Last year we were talking about a new libido drug for women, called filbanserin (see this blog, July 2, 2015.). The drug was supposed to improve women's sex lives, giving them the same options men have had for years with Cialis and Viagra. The drug was poised for approval by the FDA, even though there were concerns that it wasn't very effective. Whatever happened to it?

The story of filbanserin (trade name Addyi) is one of hype, greed, and mismanagement. filbanserin was originally under development as a drug to treat depression. Then it was discovered that it seemed to improve some women's satisfaction with their sex lives. Sensing that there might be a really big market for the drug, a small company called Sprout Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to the drug. Twice they tried get it approved by the FDA. When filbanserin was finally approved last August, the company's sales force of 14 national/regional sales managers and 150 sales representatives was all set to promote and sell the drug.

But just one day after FDA's approval of filbanserin, Sprout Pharmaceuticals was bought by an even bigger pharmaceutical company, Valeant Pharmaceuticals for (wait for it...) a whopping $1 billion. (Big fish swallows helpless little fish.) Valeant was making a name for itself on Wall Street by buying up other smaller pharmaceutical companies with patented drugs and immediately raising the drugs' prices. Yes, that's the same Valeant Pharmaceuticals that is now under federal investigation for predatory drug pricing practices.

Valeant's stock price has plummeted 85% since last year. As part of its efforts to save itself, Valeant dismissed the entire Sprout Pharmaceuticals sales force and shelved all plans to sell the drug, saying they might reintroduce the drug later this year. We'll see.

Only a few thousand prescriptions for the drug were ever written. Forget about it: it wasn't a very effective drug anyway.

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