I take Viagra every day – I’m proof women need it too

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In 2006, Yorkie was still using his sexist slogan “it’s not for girls!” At six, I was both annoyed by what I recognized as sexist and thrilled to break their rules and eat chocolate anyway.

Ten years later, I found myself sitting with a team of specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital to discuss treatment options for my newly diagnosed idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (PH), meaning high blood pressure in the lungs. . The treatment plan: Viagra. Or more specifically a drug like Viagra, called Tadalafil.

Tadalafil is a vasodilator, which means it widens the blood vessels in the lungs to counter some of the lost elasticity in my blood vessels.

My first two months of treatment were horrible. It comes with a long list of side effects, and I seemed to experience every one of them. Dizziness, headaches, nausea, and even random extras like uncontrollable hiccups reigned supreme for two months. Part of my initial discomfort was due to the high dosage I started on, which ended up being halved so I could acclimate properly.

Over the next six years, I did very well with the drug. My condition is stable, the side effects have subsided for a long time and I have now regained the optimal dose for my condition. I was fortunate to receive my diagnosis from a team of specialists working at the forefront of PH research.

Still, I’m frustrated that the company that produces my drug has failed to keep up. Tadalafil’s early life as an alternative to Viagra remains very apparent. The information leaflet that accompanies the medicine proclaims that “tadalafil is not intended for use by women”. Other highlights include: “Tadalafil does not work if there is no sexual stimulation.” So maybe I used it wrong all the time?

People like me who take the PH medication get a brief mention in the package insert when it says “do not take tadalafil if you are taking riociguat” which is another medication used to treat PH. The package insert warns of the increased effects of using the two together. That’s it.

The lack of information provided to patients with PH is all the more frustrating since the positive effects of tadalafil for people with my disease were discovered during clinical research in 2009. But this inability to change over time n is not uncommon.

Caroline Criado Perez, author of Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men argues that women have been neglected in health care since ancient Greece and that a patriarchal worldview still persists in our systems today. She also argues that women are systematically underrepresented in clinical trials, a view shared by Irving Zucker, professor emeritus of psychology and integrative biology at UC Berkeley. The research he conducted found that women are more likely than men to suffer from adverse side effects due to drug dosages based on clinical trials on men.

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As for my medications, even the number of pills per pack is designed for men. The starting dosage for men using erectile dysfunction medication is 5mg or a quarter tablet, while my daily dose is 40mg. The on-demand dosage for men is 10 mg. Each packet contains 80mg, which lasts me two days. I receive mountains of tiny boxes every three months. It’s nice and discreet for a quick administration before sex, but unnecessary and unnecessary for someone like me.

Estimates suggest that one in 20,000 people in the UK have pulmonary hypertension, a figure that is rising as tests get better at detecting the disease, and it is more common in women than men. Isn’t that enough to prompt a second packaging design and more inclusive instructions?

I also have to think about the impact of PH – and the drugs used to treat it – on pregnancy. Oral contraceptives for women with PH are limited. Estrogen should be avoided as it is thought to worsen the condition and increase our already greater risk of blood clots. Pregnancy can be very dangerous for women with PH. There is not enough research on the impact of tadalafil on progesterone-only contraceptives. When I took the progesterone-only pill during a heavy period in 2017, I was told that I shouldn’t rely on the pill for birth control at all.

I have been taking tadalafil for six years now and medically it has served me very well. I fully embraced the dumb side of my medication. I use it as an interesting fact during icebreakers. But the fact that the leaflet does not reflect everyone who uses the drug is harmful. Yorkie stopped its sexist advertising campaign in 2011. Ten years later, I wish the pharmaceutical companies understood too.

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