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Spat over push to Viagra for women

London, Jan. 3 (Reuters): Pharmaceutical firms today rejected claims they had created a new disorder known as female sexual dysfunction to build a market for Viagra and similar drugs among women.

An article in the British Medical Journal said researchers with close ties to industry had defined the new disorder at company-sponsored meetings over the past six years to encourage use of the same medicines that have helped men with impotence.

The result was that female sexual problems were being wrongly “medicalised” and the number of women affected greatly exaggerated.

The author of the article, Australian Financial Review journalist Ray Moynihan, said claims that 43 per cent of women aged 18-59 had female sexual dysfunction were misleading and potentially dangerous.

He traced the origin of the definition of the condition to a May 1997 meeting of researchers and drug company representatives at a Cape Cod hotel.

But drugmakers said they were simply seeking a treatment option for millions of women with sexual difficulties equivalent to the erectile dysfunction that men can face, which is now frequently treated with Viagra, a $1.5-billion seller for Pfizer Inc.

“All that this is doing is just providing an alternative that could be used by doctors if the situation requires it,” Richard Tiner, medical director of Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, told BBC radio.

A spokeswoman for Pfizer denied the allegations, pointing out that Viagra — and upcoming rival products from Eli Lilly/ICOS and Bayer/GlaxoSmithKline — had yet to be approved for use in women. “We work on unmet medical needs. There were academics who were working on this long before they came to us for support,” she said. “I think the article is a disservice to women who are suffering.”

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