Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Meta-issues with petition

Earlier, I wrote about a petition to the FDA to disapprove the drug Flibanserin (brand name Addyi), and expressed my (lukewarm) support of it. The petition is no longer circulating, since the FDA has already made its decision. It was approved.

Previously, I made an error: I said that Flibanserin was a treatment for Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder (FSIAD).  In fact, it was tested for Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD), which is an out-of-date diagnosis.  That's bad because HSDD doesn't have a loophole for asexuals.  Furthermore, HSDD is defined to include people with "interpersonal difficulties", which means if their partner is unhappy with it they could get diagnosed.

So now that it's done, I have to say, I really don't get the point of the petition.  A drug should be approved or disapproved on scientific grounds.  And a petition is not exactly proper scientific protocol.

The basic problem with petitions is that they only contain information about how many people agreed, and not how many people disagreed.  Circulate a petition widely enough, you can get as many signatures as you want.  Even petitions signed by scientists are pretty useless, as parodied by Project Steve.

Many people signing the petition dwelt long on arguments over whether the clinical trials show that Flibanserin is effective.  I don't see how that is relevant to the petition.  The FDA already knows about the clinical trials.  It doesn't need thousands of people on the internet to offer their own opinion.  That's why, in my argument in favor of the petition, I waved away the results of clinical trials in favor of discussing the social ramifications of the drug.

At the same time, I'm highly doubtful that the FDA even considers social ramifications in its approval process. I'm also doubtful that they should.  Say that the FDA is deciding on a contraceptive drug, do I really want them to even consider arguments that birth control ruins our culture?  I don't think so.

The Ace Flibanserin Task Force was also plugging another petition which urges the FDA to stick to the science and ignore all the pro-Flibanserin PR.  The thing about that petition, its message is inconsistent with first petition.  One petition says, just look at the science and nothing else.  The other petition says, also look at these social ramifications.  Well.  That's politics I guess.

Really, the main point of this petition seems to be to get people in the asexual community to talk about Flibanserin.  Fine, it got me to talk about it.  It didn't get me to stop being a cynic.

Now that it's been approved, I suppose we'll see what its social ramifications are.