Big Pharma : The Orgasm Scam

‘Restless Vagina Syndrome’:
Big Pharma’s newest fake disease

By Terry J. Allen / November 9, 2009

It’s not your fault, ladies (and certainly not your partner’s), that you don’t orgasm every time you have intercourse, or that you lack the libido of a 17-year-old boy. You have a disease: female sexual dysfunction (FSD), and the pharmaceutical industry wants to help.

You are among the “43 percent of American women [who] experience some degree of impaired sexual function,” according to a Journal of the American Medical Association article. The FDA’s evolving definition of FSD includes decreased desire or arousal, sexual pain and orgasm difficulties — but only if the woman feels “personal distress” about it.

So, convincing women to feel distress is a key component of the drug company strategy to market a multi-billion-dollar pill that will cure billions of women of what may not ail them.

By promoting the belief that “normal” women have explosive sex all the time, BigPharma helped launch the disease. However, the FDA has yet to approve a treatment for women who fall short. Until then, they could try the Orgasmatron: a dial-a-delight spinal implant that rarely works — and risks infection and paralysis. Or, for $60/month, pop LexaFem pills — containing (how-could-it-not-work) “horny goat weed extract” in order to “feel like a real woman today.” Its website promises, “You won’t ever feel unhappy again with LexaFem in your arsenal.”

But the big swinging dicks of global FSD marketing (and off-label marketing) are Pfizer — whose stop-gap strategy is selling women Viagra based on the fact that it works for men, and Procter & Gamble (P&G), which, using the same logic, has put its money on testosterone.

Viagra’s failure in trial after trial to work on women has not stopped doctors from writing 1.4 million off-label prescriptions. FSD is “a classic example of starting with some preconceived, and non-evidence based diagnostic categorization for women’s sexual dysfunctions, based on the male model,” said John Bancroft, director of the Kinsey Institute, in an interview with BMJ (British Medical Journal).

No drug follows the male model more literally than testosterone. Despite FDA refusal to approve P&G’s testosterone patch Intrinsa, U.S. doctors wrote 2 million off-label testosterone prescriptions in 2007. Like Pfizer’s little blue pill, the Intrinsa patch doesn’t really work for women. No wonder: Researchers don’t even know what constitutes a “normal” female testosterone level, and women with low levels of the hormone are as likely as those with high levels to be happy with their sex lives. And as filmmaker Liz Canner shows in her excellent new documentary Orgasm, Inc., testosterone is usually teamed with estrogen, which increases risks for stroke, cancers and dementia.

The companies and clinics that narrow the range of sexual normality to porn industry standards suffer their own disease. Symptoms include: a compulsion to concoct illnesses and then develop drugs to treat them, and vice versa. Either way, the syndrome is typically accompanied by a rash of conflicts of interest.

A Pfizer survey in Malaysia found that Malay women are even more diseased than their American counterparts, with “69.6 percent experiencing some form of FSD,” according to the Journal of Sexual Medicine, which also published an industry-supported supplement on FSD. Journal editor and urologist Irwin Goldstein denies a conflict of interest. “Science is science,” he says. “It comes down to the bottom line. What the data shows, the data shows.” Actually, no. Drug company-funded studies are more likely than independent studies to find the new drug superior to the old. Perhaps the bottom line Dr. Goldstein refers to is his income as a paid consultant for drug companies, including P&G and Pfizer.

Goldstein established an FSD clinic with Dr. Jennifer Berman, who now heads a Beverly Hills clinic and appears on Oprah. As one of the health professionals on a 1998 panel that received financial sponsorship from eight pharmaceutical companies, she helped define female sexual dysfunction. Some 22 drug companies, including Pfizer, had financial ties to 18 of the 19 authors of that panel’s report, the BMJ revealed.

“Maybe the best approach is not ineffective, over-hyped drugs with nasty side effects, but an end to disease mongering and a strong dose of comprehensive sex education,” says filmmaker Canner. Her film hits female erogenous zones that pharmaceutical fixes can’t find: your brain and your funny bone. 

© 2009 In These Times. All rights reserved.

Terry J. Allen is a senior editor of In These Times. Her work has appeared in Harper’s, The Nation, New Scientist and other publications.]

Source / In These Times / AlterNet

Thanks to Mariann Wizard / The Rag Blog

This entry was posted in RagBlog and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Big Pharma : The Orgasm Scam

  1. Janet Gilles says:

    Yes, big Pharm has got this disease bad. Good job pointing out the “Symptoms include: a compulsion to concoct illnesses and then develop drugs to treat them, and vice versa. Either way, the syndrome is typically accompanied by a rash of conflicts of interest.”

  2. Big Pharma rips off consumers. So what? Consumers can decide to opt out of purchasing these worthless drugs if they want to.

    Pharma learned how to accomplish their rip offs by watching big government fund program after program that rips off taxpayers. And parasitic liberals and socialists, most of whom dont earn enough to contribute much in taxes, cheer on big government’s tax mugging of the hardworking middle class and the rich. (gotta love class warfare)

    I will take the big pharma rip off any day. At least I can avoid that scam if I want to.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s hardly news that Big Pharma finances the studies which appear to validate (via the gloss of “science”) the existence of novel disorders or disease syndromes, then advertises the purported “symptoms” to create patient-demand for remedies. But Big Pharma is hardly alone in this business, and at least they must comply with FDA procedures & regulations (however flawed). Many manufacturers of unregulated dietary supplements are equally guilty of persuasive “promotion for profit” tactics. Consumers beware.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I was unaware that by paying a considerable amount in taxes, I was among the minority of my fellow “parasitic liberals”. Perhaps I should cut back in order to swim more nearly with my pack? I do wonder where Mr./Ms Extremist to the DHS gets his/her statistics. Without citations, his/her post sounds like more like vitriolic rhetoric than thoughtful, evidence-based opinion.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous number one claims that many makers of “unregulated dietary supplements” are as guilty as Big Pharma in their advertising tactics.

    I beg to differ. Dietary supplements are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the 1996 Dietary Supplement Health Educstion Act (DSHEA). Despite initial FDA opposition to the Act at the highest levels, and outrageos maneuvering to prevent the Act’s implementation, Big Pharma has finally lost some of its clout at the agency. the FDA has received for the first time in 20 years, in the current budget, enough money to adequately staff and carry out its duties regarding dietary supplements.

    DS manufacturers who obey the law are severely handicapped, compared with pharmaceutical manufacturers, in their ability to use advertising’s more outrageous tactics. For example, they cannot claim that any DS product treats the symptons of any disease, or cures any disease. They are allowed to make only “structure and function” claims, such as “supports healthy liver function”.

    Dietary supplements are not evaluated by the FDA for their safety or efficacy, and indeed, consumers should be vigilant in their research of supplements. However, any notion that the testing to which pharmaceutical products are subjected, in expensive mandatory testing, assures their safety or efficacy is simply foolish; the mainstream news routinely carries stories of newly-recalled “wonder drugs” that have been found to have deadly side effects. Very few herbal remedies carry such extreme risks.

    For reliable information on herbs, dietary supplements, and other complementary and alternative health treatments, click to visit the website of the American Botanical Council, a non-profit educational organization headquartered in Austin, TX.

    — Mariann Wizard

  6. Anonymous says:

    Sexploitation goes hand in hand with corporatocracy and capitalism. It generates billions for the fashion industry, produces cannon fodder, and reinforces patriarchy.

  7. Anonymous says:

    …boring……..(as Ruth Buzzy would say).

  8. potenta says:

    sounds interesting to try 😛

    I’m a 41 year old woman and althow i enjoy having sex with my housband, i’m disapointed for the fact that i’ve NEVER had an orgasm. I hear that for many women it just comes natural , but sadly it isn’t my case.

    Althow i know many women have the same problem, and my comment is of no surpise to anyone, i want to do my best and find a solution.

    I’ve been thinking that maybe my housband isn’t as tender and loveable as he should, but curiosity has never pushed me so far as to cheat on him with another man. Should i? Could change be a solution?

    I’ve tried all sorts of pills and aphrodisiacs, but nothing so far…

    If you have any advise, please reply to this comment. I’ve just started posting for a couple of days, so i’ll be checking in often 🙂

    Thank you!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *