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Celebrating Four Decades of Quality Care ~ 1982 - 2022

Sex & the Senior: Viagra for Older Women?

If you watch the news, you might have heard about a new drug that’s just passed FDA standards in the past few months. Commercially, it’s called Addyi  (flibanserin, generically), but you may have heard it called something like “the female Viagra.” Addyi has been approved for pre-menopausal women, but some researchers see a potential benefit for postmenopausal women, too. A 2013 study at Georgetown University looked at 950 postmenopausal women with HDSS (hypoactive sexual desire disorder) who used flibanserin at night, and 37% of those women noticed an increase in their sexual drive. We wanted to take a quick look at what a drug like this means for older women and for older adults’ sexual lives.

Now We’re Even

Medications for increasing female sex drive have lagged behind the revolutionary Viagra and Cialis that hit shelves in the late 1980s. In the approximately 30-year gap between then and now, women have written about erectile dysfunction drugs improving their sex lives, but they’ve also commented that their own libido had a hard time keeping up with their male partners’ newly increased sex drive.

And it’s not just about drive. After menopause the vaginal walls are thinner and many women experience dryness that can make sex more difficult or uncomfortable. There are some ways to deal with the physical aspects of menopause, like using additional lubrication, but until now there have been no approved medications for increasing female sex drive.

If you or a loved one are interested in using Addyi, be sure to talk to your doctor about potential side effects. Addyi does not work like erectile dysfunction drugs; it actually targets dopamine receptors, similar to an antidepressant, so it’s important to speak to a doctor before deciding to take a medication like Addyi.

Is This Covered by Insurance?

Viagra and Cialis are not covered under many public health insurance plans like Medicare D, but erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs are sometimes covered under private insurance plans like Aetna or United Health. Most health insurance companies are still evaluating whether Addyi will be included under their coverage plans, although Anthem has already committed to covering Addyi in its plans.

Safety First

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STD (sexually transmitted disease) rates have been on the rise in adults over 50, in part due to the effect drugs like Viagra have on older adults’ sexual activity. Now that both men and women have access to medications that enhance sexual drive, it’s important to remember to practice safe sex at every age. Menopause might eliminate risk for pregnancy, but thinner vaginal walls leave women at greater risk for tears, which increases risk for transmitting an STD. To lower STD risk, always make sure to use protection and always communicate expectations with your partner if the relationship is new.

Have you or a loved one used Addyi or a similar product? Do you think it’s about time women were able to have access to libido-boosting drugs, or do you feel it may pose problems for seniors’ relationships down the line? Let us know what you think in the comments.  

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