The CEO behind the first drug to boost women's sex drive has been working toward this her whole career


Sprout 4


Sprout CEO Cindy Whitehead, at center, won approval for her drug flibaserin this week.

This week's biggest news in health has been over a controversial little pink pill designed to increase the libidos of women who struggle with chronically low sex drives.

The pill, called Addyi, is for women with chronically low sex drives. It sends chemicals to the brain to stimulate sexual desire and is taken daily, and it has some pretty serious side effects when it interacts with alcohol.


Sprout Pharmaceuticals - the company behind the pill since 2011 and got it FDA approved last week - was acquired by the drug company Valeant Pharmaceuticals on Thursday for $1 billion.

Business Insider spoke with Sprout's CEO Cindy Whitehead over the phone about the big news, and what she thinks of the first drug approved for women's sexual health.

Business Insider: Was the Valeant deal something you guys had hoped for in the long run for Sprout?


CW: I think we were so mission-driven just to get to finish line of completing all the science and getting to an approval of a drug. I think what this affords us is to do that in a way that we as a 34-person company wouldn't have otherwise been able to, and I think that means ... affordable access for more women.Things like copay assistance programs and those that we'll be able to be more generous with than we would have been able to be at Sprout alone.

And ultimately having now opened this door for women in the United States, we can go into other markets in which women also don't have a medical treatment for this condition, even if the prevalence data looks exactly the same.

[Acquisition talk] has been very recent, I think. After the [FDA] advisory committee meeting, companies saw the possibility that we were going to get to this first for women. They were interested, and that's really when discussions started happening.


But it became clear for us I think very quickly that Valeant was the right partner because our entire team stays, and we will run this, and we will continue to do this in a way that we see is right for women.

BI: Will the acquisition effect the October 17 entry date to market or the target price range of about 400 per month?

CW: No, everything will stay on tap as we have been planning it for Sprout.


BI: Why did Sprout push so hard for this drug and what's the significance to you?

CW: For the women. I've actually been in the field of sexual medicine for some time. I saw this spectacular science that was going to be abandoned, and I thought it was going to be abandoned frankly because of a society unwilling to have a frank discussion about the biology of sex for women. And the need was just too great.

I understood not only from the clinicians who see these patients every day in their office, what an important need this was but really from just women themselves, I think my greatest privilege in all of this is how many women have shared their very personal stories with me and the pain I think they have dealt with this condition.


The hallmark characteristic, the only reason you'd be considered to be treated for this is if it is causing you distress. And for many of these women it's profound distress. It's breaking up their marriages, it's really having them feel lesser, and so I think the possibility of providing women access to a treatment really meant a lot to me.

BI: Most of your pipeline relies on Addyi. Are there any other drugs now that this has been approved? What's next?

CW: First things first, we're just going to launch this the right way. I think we're going to get out there, we're going to educate prescribers and pharmacies through a certification program.


We'll stay singular in our focus for the near term, but ultimately who knows what the possibility would be? I'm deeply passionate about women's health, and a segment that I think has been stagnant for too long.

I'd love to see this usher in a new era of interest in terms of investment and research for conditions like HSDD that uniquely impact women.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.


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