Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to prescription medication.
Flibanserin is a prescription drug used to improve libido in women. It’s FDA-approved treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in women, which is sometimes caused by hormonal changes during menopause.
But is the drug actually proven to increase sex drive in women? Does it have any concerning side effects? Is the branded version Addyi the best way to access this drug? And how do real users describe the effects of flibanserin?
In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more as we review clinical studies on flibanserin to determine how effective it is, document side effects of the drug, explain why Addyi is the best way to access flibanserin and share real, unsponsored user reviews of the medication.
Does Flibanserin Actually Increase Sex Drive?
Flibanserin has been studied in a multitude of clinical trials to determine if the drug can increase sex drive in women.
A meta-study published in 2019 examined data from three clinical trials on flibanserin for pre-menopausal women with low sexual desire.
All three clinical trials documented an enhanced sex drive in those taking flibanserin. The number of “satisfying sexual events” increased from 1.2 to 2.1 over the 28 day trial period. The study authors noted that flibanserin not only improved sexual desire but also reduced sexual distress.
A medical trial published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine analyzed the drug's efficacy for enhancing sexual desire in post-menopausal women. The average age of the trial participants was around 56 years old.
The results from this trial were less favorable than the results from the study on pre-menopausal women. Sexual function was slightly improved but there was no difference in the number of satisfying sexual events.
The most thorough medical review we could find on this medication analyzed data from over 5,000 flibanserin patients.
Flibanserin increased the average number of satisfying sexual events by 0.5 per month.
Flibanserin is proven to be effective at increasing female libido and the number of satisfying sexual events that sexually active women experience. That said, the clinical results aren’t particularly impressive in our opinion.
Flibanserin Side Effects
Flibanserin does cause side effects in some patients.
The drug's FDA label has a "black box" warning indicating that alcohol must be avoided while taking flibanserin because the combination of the two substances can cause severe side effects.
Black box warnings are the most severe level of warning issued by the FDA, and indicate side effects that may be life-threatening. There are also dangerous interactions to other prescription drugs listed on the warning label, and a doctor should be careful to check a patient's existing medication before prescribing flibanserin, to ensure that none of the contraindicated drugs are currently being taken.
The medical review with data from over 5,000 patients documented more common side effects of the drug. Those using flibanserin were four times more likely than those taking a placebo pill to experience dizziness, four times more likely to experience drowsiness, and 2.35 times more likely to suffer from nausea. The risk of fatigue also increased by 64% in the flibanserin group.
Given the black box warning, we recommend that patients considering flibanserin make sure that they notify their doctor of all other medications they're currently taking, and have an honest discussion with their doctor about whether they will be able to totally refrain from alcohol use while on the drug.
For patients unable to stop drinking alcohol, a doctor may be able to recommend an alternative medication that does not have a negative interaction with alcohol.
Surprising Facts About Flibanserin
One of the most popular YouTube videos on flibanserin is published by a channel called "Women in the World," is only one minute long, and highlights some interesting (and potentially concerning) facts about the drug:
Is Addyi the Best Way to Take This Drug?
As we documented in our Addyi reviews article, flibanserin is the generic form of the drug and Addyi is the branded form.
We typically recommend that patients speak with their doctor about the generic version of drugs, because medical research has proven that generic drugs are as effective as their brand-name equivalents.
A meta-study published in the PLOS Medicine journal analyzed data from 1 million patients and found that generic and branded drugs are equally effective and safe. This suggests that generic flibanserin should be as effective as Addyi.
Unfortunately, at the time of updating this article, generic flibanserin is not available on the U.S. market according to GoodRx. This means that patients should ask their doctor about Addyi if they're interested in taking flibanserin.
Generic flibanserin may be available for sale within the next few years, so we'd recommend that patients on Addyi ask their doctor annually about whether a generic equivalent is available, because generic drugs can be significantly cheaper.
Flibanserin Real User Reviews
Flibanserin has been reviewed over 50 times on Drugs.com, which is a website that allows patients to write personal reviews and rate prescription drugs they're taking.
The medication has an average rating of 3.2/10 at the time of writing this article, which is the worst average rating of any drug we’ve reviewed on Illuminate Health to this point. A full 50% of users have rated the drug 1/10.
The top positive review comes from a user named “Hafabnr” who claims the drug improved their sex drive:
"I can't imagine life without [flibanserin]! I forgot what have a libido felt like until I started taking [flibanserin]. I love my husband and literally dreaded having sex. I only wish I found this sooner!"
The top negative review is written by a user named “Girl” who claims the drug caused side effects and is too expensive:
"It causes my mind to race and makes me restless. I have epilepsy and lack of sleep causes my seizures. I paid $99 for this med, after the website said it was only $20 a month. They claimed even with my insurance, that is as low as they could go. I am very disappointed all the way around."
A video published by the popular media network Inside Edition also interviewed a real flibanserin user who had a positive experience:
Can an OTC Supplement Naturally Increase Libido?
Panax ginseng is a root native to Asia that's sold as a dietary supplement, and which has been studied in several clinical trials for its effects on libido in women.
A clinical trial published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine tested the effects of panax ginseng extract on sexual arousal in menopausal women. The supplement "significantly improved scores" on a sexual arousal scale after two weeks.
A 2015 clinical trial tested the effects of panax ginseng extract on the libido of premenopausal women. The supplement was found to increase sexual desire by 19% but the researchers considered the results not statistically significant.
Illuminate Labs sells a panax ginseng extract supplement which is third-party tested to ensure label accuracy, potency and purity, and which contains no questionable additive ingredients.
We are not suggesting that panax ginseng extract is effective as a standalone libido enhancer, or that it’s as effective as flibanserin. We’re simply sharing some promising research on this herbal supplement which has negligible side effects based on clinical studies. Patients may benefit from speaking with their doctor about trying panax ginseng for sexual arousal before progressing to pharmaceutical medication.
Interested consumers can check out Illuminate Labs Panax Ginseng Extract at this link to the product page on our website, where the supplement can be purchased for only $15 on a subscription basis.
How Does Flibanserin Work?
Libido is a complex and multifactorial aspect of human biology. It’s affected by both mental and physical factors, and the mechanism of action of flibanserin appears to be mostly mental. The drug increases levels of dopamine and reduces levels of serotonin in the brain, according to one of the medical reviews linked in the research section.
These two neurotransmitters affect both mood and hormonal signaling. Medical studies have proven that serotonin can reduce sexual desire and arousal, so by artificially reducing its circulating level in the brain, flibanserin can increase sex drive.
Flibanserin also acts as an agonist to dopamine receptors, which means that it attaches to the receptors and enhances cellular signaling. High levels of circulating dopamine are associated with increased sexual desire and increased reward-seeking behavior.