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The Woman Who Brought 'Female Viagra' to Market Is Stepping Down as CEO of Sprout Pharmaceuticals

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Cindy Whitehead, the chief executive of Sprout Pharmaceuticals, is stepping down.

Sprout Pharmaceuticals
Cindy Whitehead (center).

Even if you don't recognize her name, you've likely heard of the product she fought to bring to market.

As the CEO of Sprout Pharmaceuticals, Whitehead weathered a long regulatory journey to develop the first prescription drug to boost women's sex drives. The road finally ended in August, when the FDA approved the pill – officially called Addyi but quickly dubbed “female Viagra” -- after initially rejecting it in 2010 and again in 2013.

That same month, Valeant Pharmaceuticals announced that it would acquire Sprout for $1 billion.

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In an interview with Bizwomen, Whitehead spun her departure as the next logical step after securing FDA approval for Addyi. "I feel like I’ve seen it through to what I wanted to accomplish," she said. "It really was to prove the science, get the approval so that women could have this choice for themselves and then really to build the team to have it really come to the realization of the bigger mission, which is the opportunity for this to go global and to be made widely available to women in an affordable way."

That said, the drug didn't exactly enter the market with a bang. According to Bloomberg, in the first few weeks after its October launch, only 227 women got prescriptions.

While her run at Sprout is over, Whitehead's entrepreneurial journey isn't. She told Bizwomen she will now spend more time developing Undercover Colors, a startup founded by four male North Carolina State University students that makes a nail polish designed to change color when dipped in a drink containing a date-rape drug.

Sprout did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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Laura Entis

Written By

Laura Entis is a reporter for's Venture section.