As soon as the bremelanotide (a.k.a. PT-141) arrived in the mail, I shook the white crystal onto a mirror
and began to chop it into powder. I snorted some and a bitter taste
began its steady descent down the back of my throat. But I wasn't about
to complain. Thanks to a website calledTanresearch.comand
$65, I finally had my hands on the most revolutionary sex drug ever
created. This potion had undergone studies for almost a decade in a
quest to make it the first-everFDA-approved aphrodisiac to hit the U.S. market.
Sure, history and folk medicine are full of purported aphrodisiacs, like Spanish fly and rhinoceros horn. Butbremelanotideisn't like those – neither is it simply anerectile dysfunction druglikeViagraorCialis, so-called PDE-5 inhibitors
that work by pushing blood around the body. Bremelanotide belongs to a
new class of drugs called melanocortins, which work in the mind,
increasing sexual desire. Deep inside the brain, the substance stirs
passion by activating hypothalamic
and limbic emotional structures, the parts that naturally flare when
you're turned on. Scientists aren't exactly sure how melanocortins do
this, but the result is clear: Before you know it, you want to have sex.
Or at least that's what the research has shown.
snorting 10 milligrams of the stuff, I felt nothing. Several hours
later I still wasn't the slightest bit horny. So at midnight I went to
bed, totally unaware of the flood of animalistic desire that was to take
hold of me.
A year earlier I was in the Montreal lab ofJim Pfaus, arguably the world's preeminent expert on bremelanotide.
50-year-old neuroscientist, Pfaus was in the last stages of preclinical
trials aimed at getting FDA approval for bremelanotide. Originally
developed as a self-tanning agent, the drug had been repurposed when
male study subjects reported a surprising side effect: erections. A New
Jersey pharmaceutical company calledPalatin Technologieshad
bought the drug, then turned the pill into a powder that could be
delivered nasally, hoping that sleek nasal-spray dispensers could blow
away little blue pills – and earn profits that would dwarf the $150
million that Palatin had spent on research and clinical testing.
showed me stunning testimonials from human test subjects. "On the
five-point scale, I would rate the erection I had as a six," said one of
the 1,300 anonymous testers. "You get this humming feeling," said
another. "You're ready to take your pants off and go."
drug worked equally well on women, who chronicled "an intense arousal"
that lasted from six to 72 hours. "I was focused on sex," said one of
there were side effects, and in 2007, Palatin's sex drug hit a
roadblock just before entering phase-three testing, the FDA's final
clinical hurdle before the drug is released to the public. Some of the
men who sniffed bremelanotide experienced an increase in blood pressure,
and about one third of the women who took the drug reported nausea.
There were also those who doubted the drug would actually cause couples to want to jump into bed together. "It's baloney," saysLeonore Tiefer,
a professor of psychiatry at New York University's Langone School of
Medicine. "You might increase genital itchiness, but you won't increase
It appeared that bremelanotide would fall into the ash heap of failed aphrodisiacs, to rest in peace with tiger penis soup. But then something unexpected happened.
2008, Iranian urologist Mohammad Reza Safarinejad published findings he
had gathered by testing bremelanotide that he purchased from a company
in Dubai on men and women. "He got fantastic results," says Pfaus.
"Palatin had published everything about the drug – including the exact
sequence of the compound." Middle Eastern chemists used that sequence to create the drug themselves. Shortly thereafter, several companies began offering the drug online.
was it safe? "Well," says Pfaus, "we never resolved that blood pressure
thing. There's no guarantee of purity. The FDA won't regulate it."
Clearly, the purity issue wasn't going to stop me. Several hours after taking the drug, I wasn't experiencing a headache, a palpitating heart, or nausea, but, sadly, I also hadn't enjoyed a spontaneous erection. Then, at four in the morning,
it took hold. I felt a great surge of affection (greater than any
regular level of arousal) for my lovely wife. My body tingled and, yes, I
developed an erection that wouldn't quit. For two hours the drug
wouldn't let me out of its grasp – nor my wife out of mine.