Meghan Markle is Engaged to Prince Harry

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (E! Online)

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (E! Online)

It’s finally happening! Former “Suits” actress Meghan Markle got engaged to her boyfriend Price Harry (heard of him?), and they announced their engagement a week ago. The two attended a photocall in the morning at Kensington Palance’s Sunken Garden, and sat down for an televised interview revealing more details with the BBC later that day.

This engagement is big for a lot of reasons, but mainly because it’s breaking barriers: Markle will be the first biracial person (and first biracial woman) to join the royal family. (Markle’s mother is Doria Ragland, an African-American woman, and her father is Thomas Markle, who is Caucasian. Markle self-identifies as a “strong, confident mixed-race woman.”) Many are excited because Markle will be the first “Black Princess” (though technically she’s more likely to end up with a Duchess title), but there are more nuances to the situation. “Elle” has a a great piece where 16 Black women aired their reactions to the engagement news; it’s well worth reading in full, so go check it out!

The engagement is also a powerful step towards revolutionizing the British monarchy and the public’s perception thereof. Princes Harry and William have spoken out about their mental health and its importance, and seem to want to make the monarchy more progressive. Along with the fact that Prince Harry will be marrying a biracial woman, he’ll also be marrying a divorcee: Markle was previously married to film producer Trevor Engelson from 2011 to 2013. The last time a British royal married a divorced woman, he had to abdicate the throne. This happened in 1937 when the Duke of Windsor married Wallis Simpson, which caused quite a scandal.

One thing is for sure: this engagement is hurtling the British royal family into the 21st century. As “The New York Times” puts it:

With one heady announcement, it seems, Harry and Ms. Markle have thrown out generations’ worth of quietly repressed tradition and presented a new royal model to a country that will have to adjust to it, whether it wants to or not.

 

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FDA Approves “Female Viagra” Addyi

The experimental drug flibanserin, made by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, is at the center of a regulatory controversy.

The experimental drug flibanserin, made by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, is at the center of a regulatory controversy.

Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Addyi (also known by its generic name Flibanserin) for public consumption. The drug, produced by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, is being touted as a “female Viagra,” a way to “even the score” sexually against men (who have many option to treat waning sexual desire). In some circles, it’s seen as a big breakthrough for women’s sexual health.

Interestingly, Addyi is the first drug to specifically treat waning sex drives for both men and women. (Viagra solved a purely medical/physical issue rather than a psychological one.) Addyi targets the central nervous system, putting it in line with an antidepressant.

Addyi purports to help women with hypoactive sexual disorder (i.e. lack of sexual desire.) But it works on a woman’s mind instead of her body. Rather than facilitating blood flow to the genital region, as Viagra does, the drug takes a two-pronged approach:

Flibanserin targets two neurotransmitters in the brain that can help inspire sexual desire. The first is dopamine, which helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers and could help drive up our interest in sex. The second is norepinephrine, which affects parts of the brain that control our attention and our response to things in our environment and could help direct our attention to a sexual partner.

The ultimate goal is that a woman’s level of desire would increase over time.

(Side note: Apparently, Viagra was marketed to women in 2004. The drug did increase blood flow to the women’s genitals, but didn’t affect their level of sexual desire.)

But the drug isn’t completely out of the woods yet: there are still some concerns regarding side effects. Doctors and pharmacists will need to undergo specific training of the drug before dispensing it, and will need to keep track of the women who take it. The biggest side effects include low blood pressure, sleepiness and “sudden fainting,” especially when taken with alcohol. (I have to say, I don’t really understand the point of making a drug to help with sex that can’t be paired with alcohol, but that’s just me.)

There’s also an argument that the drug “doesn’t work safely enough to justify its approval:” Women who took the drug during clinical trials reported a 37% increase in sexual desire, which averaged out to not even two more “satisfying sexual experiences” per month. The boost over the placebo group was even smaller.

It’s expected that Addyi will be covered under most health insurance plans, requiring a co-pay, and will inhabit a price range similar to that of Viagra. The drug should hit the market as soon as October (i.e. less than two months), with some outlets reporting an exact date of Oct. 17th.

I have to say, I’m really curious to see how this will do. I want to see how well it’ll perform (heh) sales-wise, and how many women report the side effects. But most of all, I want to see how this drug will influence the female-desire drugs that will surely come after it.

How Has Colorado’s Teen Pregnancy Rate Dropped 40% Within 4 Years?

IUD (NY Mag)

IUD (NY Mag)

Colorado’s teen pregnancy rate has been getting some attention recently. But it’s not for the reason you think; it’s actually for the opposite reason.

From 2009 to 2013, Colorado reported a 40% decrease in teenage pregnancies, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Below is a graph that shows the decline:

Colorado's Birth Rate 2005-2012 (The Washington Post)

Colorado’s Birth Rate 2005-2012 (The Washington Post)

That seems insane, right? But there’s actually an interesting reason behind it.

In 2008, an anonymous donor (later revealed to be the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named after Warren Buffett’s late wife) gave a $23 gift to be parceled out over five years. The gift was to be used for “long-term contraception” for low-income teens and women. Over 30K intrauterine devices (IUDs) were purchased and implemented. This measure was rolled out in 68 clinics, as part of Colorado’s Family Planning Initiative.

The IUDs were found to be a very significant factor in the state’s teen pregnancy decline. The study released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed that “the percentage of young women receiving IUDs and implants quadrupled in participating clinics,” and, in a complementary effect, the women receiving IUDs accounted for 75% of the state’s overall teen birth rate decline.

On a national scale, Colorado rose from having the “29th lowest teen birth rate in the nation to the 19th.” This is significant as seven in 10 teen pregnancies in the state are unplanned.

The program expires this summer, and it’s unclear whether it will be renewed. But the numbers definitely speak for themselves in terms of effectiveness.