Drug companies are 'medicalising' sexual difficulty among women- such as low libido and discomfort- and have actually constructed a new condition known as female sexual dysfunction, in order to build global markets for new 'Viagra' like drugs for the ladies, says an expert.
Researching his new book 'Sex, Lies and Pharmaceuticals' Ray Moynihan, journalist and lecturer at the University of Newcastle in Australia, discovered that drug industry employees have worked with paid key opinion leaders to help develop the disease entity; they have run surveys to portray it as widespread; and they helped design diagnostic tools to persuade women that their sexual difficulties deserve a medical label and treatment.
Pharmaceutical companies have spent millions to find an effective drug solution hoping for similar returns to Viagra, the male impotence pill that is worth an astonishing 500 million dollars in sales every year.
Already women can be prescribed a testosterone patch to boost low libido; other treatments waiting to be licensed include an anti-depressant-type drug that affects the feel-good brain chemical serotonin and one containing the hormone DHEA that the body can turn into testosterone.
But now a new book suggests that not only is the effectiveness of such treatments questionable, but the claim that nearly half of all women have a problem is deliberately misleading and a wild exaggeration.
In fact, researchers and pharmaceutical companies are accused of 'medicalising' female sexual problems in order to sell drugs.
A business report from Datamonitor in 2003 predicted that the market for female sexual dysfunction drugs could soon approach 1 billion dollars a year
According to leading health journalist Ray Moynihan it's all part of the drive by drug companies to 'expand the patient pool' by 'creating markets for lifestyle drugs' for both men and women.
"Companies no longer just sell drugs," the Daily Mail quoted Moynihan as saying in his book, 'Sex, Lies And Pharmaceuticals: How Drug Companies Are Bankrolling The Next Big Condition For Women'.
"Increasingly they create a disease like female sexual dysfunction and then spend a fortune "educating" doctors to prescribe strong drugs to women that they don't need and that are unlikely to help them," said Moynihan.
Furthermore, these drugs, which are marginally effective at best, come with a nasty raft of potential side-effects, including nausea, dizziness and a raised risk of heart disease.
One drug currently applying for a licence can cause depression and even loss of consciousness.
Moynihan is livid over the claim that 43 per cent of woman suffer from a sexual problem, calling it 'one of the most pervasive medical myths, as extreme as it is absurd'.
Researchers into sexual disorders all agree that some women have genuine sexual problems that may involve anxiety, pain or difficulty that might respond to medical treatment.
But many others might be better helped with counselling.
Yet there is an awful lot of money and expertise invested in persuading both the medical profession and patients that popping a pill to revive a flagging libido is the quickest and easiest route to go.
Moynihan's book describes in impressive detail just how this is being achieved.
For instance, 95 per cent of the experts who hammered out the medical definition of female sexual dysfunction that's widely used in promotional literature had financial relationships with the company making a drug to treat it.