From Research to Market: The Story of Flibanserin’s Journey to Approval (2024)

The drug Flibanserin, also known as “female Viagra,” was created to treat women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). On the road from the lab to the market, the medication encountered a number of difficulties, including FDA rejections, safety worries, and disagreement regarding its limited advantages and potential side effects.

Despite these obstacles, Flibanserin eventually received FDA approval, constituting a significant advancement in the management of female sexual dysfunction.

Discovery and Early Research

Early in the new millennium, the German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim made the initial discovery of Flibanserin. The business was looking into a new depression treatment when they discovered that it might make women more sexually attracted to men.

Boehringer Ingelheim started concentrating its research efforts on developing Flibanserin as a therapy for HSDD after preliminary tests produced encouraging findings.

Clinical Trials


Boehringer Ingelheim carried out three phase 3 clinical trials between 2008 and 2010 to examine the effectiveness of Flibanserin in treating HSDD. These studies, which involved over 5,000 women, demonstrated that the medication reduced the discomfort associated with low libido and moderately increased sexual desire.

Trials did, however, also draw attention to several potential negative effects, including fatigue, nausea, and dizziness.

FDA Rejections

The FDA turned down Boehringer Ingelheim‘s request to sell Flibanserin in 2010 and again in 2013, despite the positive outcomes of the clinical trials. The organization raised safety issues with the medication and questioned if the tiny benefits outweighed the possible risks.

Some opponents of the FDA’s choice said that the organization was biased against women because it had previously authorized medications for male sexual dysfunction without applying the same amount of examination.

Acquisition By Sprout Pharmaceuticals

Boehringer Ingelheim sold the Flibanserin rights to Sprout Pharmaceuticals, a small start-up firm specializing in the research and development of medicines for female sexual dysfunction, after the second FDA rejection. Cindy Whitehead, the CEO of Sprout, oversaw efforts to allay FDA worries and carry out further clinical trials to support the drug’s efficacy and safety.

FDA Approval


After a protracted and acrimonious review process, the FDA ultimately gave Flibanserin the go-ahead in 2015 for the treatment of premenopausal women with HSDD. The results of three further clinical trials that demonstrated Flibanserin increased sexual desire and decreased suffering associated with low libido were used to support the approval.

Due to the risk of fainting and dizziness, the FDA also mandated a black box warning on the drug’s package.

Controversies and criticisms

Flibanserin’s approval was greeted with both excitement and doubt. It was praised by supporters as a much-needed therapy choice for women with HSDD, a disorder that the medical establishment had hitherto ignored.

However, detractors expressed worries about the medication’s limited advantages, its adverse effects, and the part played by pharma firms in the FDA approval procedure.

Despite these issues, the approval of Flibanserin marked a significant advancement in the treatment of female sexual dysfunction since it raised awareness of a problem that had previously gone unnoticed.

In the end, the development and approval of medications for illnesses that have previously been disregarded or stigmatized were emphasized by the path of flibanserin from the laboratory to the market.



The long and difficult process of developing Flibanserin was characterized by scientific advances, clinical trials, FDA rejections, and debate. Despite these obstacles, the drug’s clearance marked a significant advancement in the management of female sexual dysfunction, a disorder that had previously received little attention from the medical world.

The approval, however, also brought up significant issues regarding the place of gender in healthcare and the pharmaceutical sector, as well as worries about the impact of pharmaceutical firms on the FDA approval procedure.

The difficult and frequently contentious nature of medication research and approval was represented in many ways in the journey of flibanserin from the lab to the market.