What the hell does 'Addyi' mean? No one knows.


Like a woman’s libido, the name of the new drug approved to treat female sexual dysfunction is hard to understand—let alone pronounce.

Yes, as if women struggling with hypoactive sexual desire disorder needed one more barrier to spontaneity in the bedroom. The pharmaceutical company Sprout went and named its long-awaited pill something that sounds like a character in an Avatar sequel: Addyi.

Or perhaps like a drug to treat ADD. As in, “Oh, is your wife too ADD to have sex with you? Try Add-yi!”

In hopes of learning what they were going for, I reached out to Sprout to ask, “What the hell is up with this weirdo name?” (More or less.) But alas, I got the same baffling response as others who have questioned it:

As with the naming for all pharmaceutical drugs, we underwent an individualized process to name Addyi, taking into account important criteria that was relevant to the product and our brand … We chose this unique name and spelling to represent the utility of the treatment and essence of the brand. It represents the individuality of the first of her kind, and the definition of a woman’s best self.

First of all, Addyi is not a she—it’s a drug. Second, they told me nothing that explains how it was actually named. Although the rep for Sprout did add, “The phonetic pronunciation is ‘add-ee.’”

Ooh, I see. Add-ee. It all makes sense now. Like adding “E” into my sex life? I‘ve heard Ecstasy puts people in the mood. Or maybe it’s a combination of the famously frisky Adam and Eve. Ad-Eve. Addyi. They wouldn’t reveal their process, so we’ll never know.

Also, the name conjures “a woman’s best self”? If anything, women are embarrassed enough to talk about their sex lives with their doctor—now they will be forced to stammer through their inquiry the same way people struggle to order Bibimbap at a Korean restaurant. “Um, yes, can I ask about Add-ya-i…Add-ee…Ay-dee … that drug that helps me have more sex?”

Of course, a lot of drugs’ names are seemingly nonsensical. And yet, while “Viagra” is an equally made-up word, it does remind a person of vitality and growing. And names like Allegra and Claritin conjure “allergy” and “clarity,” respectively.

But despite what Sprout claims, Addyi, whose generic name is “flibanserin,” doesn’t appear to allude to its utility—treating sexual dysfunction—in any way. As some on Twitter have pointed out, a more direct allusion might sound more like this:

So how did they land on Addyi? While pharmaceutical companies are notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to their naming methods, we know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers several factors when approving a drug—to “increase the safe use of drug products by minimizing user errors attributed to unclear nomenclature, labels, labeling, and packaging design of drug products,” according to its website.

For instance, they’ll consider whether the name sounds like another drug, which could create confusion at pharmacy counters—and whether it oversells the product. (In other words, “Orgasm-4-Life” would not be an acceptable name.)

Addyi meets these standards—but is that enough for the first pill to treat sexual dysfunction in women? This is a name that will go down in history. Even the weight-loss drug Alli, which may be its closest comparison—it was a big deal when it came out, and was also directed at women—echoes “ally,” as in, “this drug is totally my friend while trying to lose weight.” Addyi does none of these things.

If not an actual alien, Addyi sounds like something alien. Or perhaps a new champ on League of Legends (you know, since Akali and Azir were already taken). Or maybe Addyi is short for Adelaide, a name that reached peak popularity in 1880 when women really had no rights, and Sprout is trying to be ironic?

Or maybe Sprout was thinking that the weirder the name, the more it would rile up women, and the more publicity it would get from journalists like me.

Well played, Sprout. Well played.

Taryn Hillin is Fusion’s love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.

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