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Two Days After The “Female Viagra” Drug Was Approved, Its Maker Gets Purchased For $1 Billion

That was quick.

Two Days After The “Female Viagra” Drug Was Approved, Its Maker Gets Purchased For $1 Billion

A small pharmaceutical startup in Raleigh, North Carolina, is having a big week. First, on Tuesday, the FDA approved its controversial drug that will be the first on the market to treat low libido in pre-menopausal women. Today, the company announced it is being acquired for $1 billion in cash by Valeant Pharmaceuticals, a multinational firm.

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The market for the drug, which will be sold in the U.S. under the trade name Addyi, is at this point unclear. Studies have estimated that 1 in 10 American women or about 16 million may have the condition the drug treats, called hypoactive sexual desire disorder. But the daily-dose pill isn’t supposed to be taken with alcohol and comes with side effects, including dizziness and low blood pressure and possible fainting. It also isn’t effective in all women–in clinical trials, only about 10% of patients responded.

“I think whether or not this is ultimately the right choice for women is a story that will be told in the marketplace,” Sprout Pharmaceuticals CEO Cindy Whitehead told Co.Exist in an interview a week ago.

It’s also not yet clear whether insurers will pay for the drug. But they may face the same political pressure that the FDA faced to approve the drug. Women’s advocacy groups and Sprout Pharmaceuticals itself launched a campaign called “Even the Score” that called the lack of availability of women’s sexual health drugs sexist–since many options exist for men who have erectile dysfunction. Some, but not all, insurance companies cover Viagra and its relatives.

The acquisition will give a nice return to the company’s private investors, as the New York Times notes. Sprout Pharmaceuticals received a total of $100 million in funding since it formed in 2011, after buying the rights to develop the desire-boosting drug, called flibanserin.

Valeant said in a press release that it expects to launch Addyi in the U.S. by the fourth quarter of this year and that it will also seek regulatory approvals internationally. The acquisition still has to be approved by regulators. As part of the deal, Sprout and its investors will also receive a share of profits once the drug hits certain milestones.

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About the author

Jessica Leber is a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist. Previously, she was a business reporter for MIT’s Technology Review and an environmental reporter at ClimateWire

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