2013 Predictions: Viagra for Women, Digital Doctors and More

As we head into the New Year, I’m sharing my health-related predictions for 2013:

1. Tampon sales will go down. Increasing numbers of women are using forms of contraception such as IUDs and extended cycle birth control pills that minimize or eliminate periods. In addition, many women who suffer from heavy periods now undergo endometrial ablation procedures and permanently kiss their periods goodbye!

2. Your doctor will look at a computer screen more than he looks at you. If electronic medical records haven’t already hit your doctor’s office, they will soon since medical practices are encouraged, and in many cases, required, to be electronic by 2014. The trade-off to this “less personal” encounter is that your records will be more accurate, more readable, and more available to coordinate care with other doctors.

My office is in the process of converting, and it’s real torture for me since I prefer to look at my patient while we are talking instead of checking off boxes on a screen. So, please be patient with your doc while we figure this whole thing out!

3. You might be spraying it, instead of smoking it. Most people are aware that marijuana can be used for medical purposes, and many states have already legalized it. One company has developed a form of medicinal marijuana that can be sprayed in the mouth. Sativex has already been approved in Canada, New Zealand and eight European countries. This form of marijuana will be conveniently available at your local pharmacy by prescription, instead of on a street corner in a plastic baggy.

4. Viagra for women? Not exactly Viagra, but with the recognition that men and women after 50 not only have sex, but are willing to spend money on pharmaceuticals to make it better, product development for the mid-life sexual health market is booming. Testosterone for women, and other libido boosters, will likely become approved this year.

5. A pill a day to make the dryness go away. There are also a number of new products coming out that specifically address the vaginal dryness that occurs as a result of menopause. One product, ospemifene, to be marketed as Ophena, is a daily pill to be taken by mouth. This pill is not estrogen, but is classified as a SERM, or selective estrogen receptor modulator. Ospemifene targets vaginal tissue and has been shown to alleviate painful intercourse due to vaginal atrophy.

6. Abdominal hysterectomy rates plummet. It’s taken awhile, but  finally most women who have been told they need a hysterectomy will be offered an alternative procedure , or a minimally invasive procedure performed laparoscopically or robotically. I would like to believe my book has helped get the word out and am excited to announce the release of the second edition of The Essential Guide to Hysterectomy in February. Look forward to the movie in 2014 with Anne Hathaway playing the part of the uterus.

7. Airport shops will be selling vibrators. Actually, in case you missed it, adult toys first appeared in airports in 2012. This phenomenon will be more prevalent as sexual aids become increasingly mainstream, making those long layovers infinitely more tolerable.

8. New non-hormonal drug for hot flashes. Gabapentin, a pill currently used for neurological conditions, is likely to be FDA-approved in a slightly different form for treatment of flashes. While estrogen therapy alleviates hot flashes, many women can’t take estrogen or prefer not to. There aren’t a lot of alternatives that actually work, so this is really good news for the millions of American women that are post-menopausal and would like a better solution than a portable fan and a change of clothes.

9. More time with physician extenders instead of physicians. Advanced practice nurses and physician assistants will have a lot more clinical responsibilities, especially in primary care. This is a good thing. A really good thing.

10. Your doctor’s going digital. Beyond making appointments, it will become standard to fill your prescription, ask a question, and get information online. And don’t be surprised if your doctor uses social media to communicate with their patients. But don’t worry: Your doctor won’t Tweet about your unusual rash or post a picture of your latest piercing on Pinterest. (Although personally, I love it when my patients “Like” their gynecologist on Facebook!)