The drug flibanserin, from Boehringer Ingleheim, gets a lot of publicity, perhaps because it has to do with sex. It's the so-called "pink Viagra," a pill that might enhance women's libido. The bad news, reported by The Wall Street Journal, is that a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel last week unanimously rejected it, voicing concerns about safety.

The good news is that flibanserin is just one example of how drug companies are increasing efforts to address women's health issues, arguably the next big opportunity in health care.

"Pharmaceutical companies are beginning to focus more on how drugs can affect both men and women," Lisa LaMotta of Minyanville recently wrote. "Many companies are even addressing more of the problems that are unique to women -- gynecological issues, osteoporosis, menopause, and even female sexual desire."

LaMotta notes among others:

  • BioSante Pharmaceuticals has a female-desire drug in late-stage trials.
    Merck (NYSE: MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) offer human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines (Gardasil and Cervarix, respectively).
  • Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) recently signed a marketing agreement with Neurocrine Biosciences (Nasdaq: NBIX) for an endometriosis-related pain treatment.
  • Teva Pharmaceutical manufactures several birth control pills.

Gardasil brought Merck more than $1.1 billion in sales in 2009, down from 2007 and 2008 levels that each clocked in at over $1.4 billion. Glaxo's Cervarix, approved in the U.S. only in October 2009, has contributed to strong growth in the company's vaccine business. Abbott is paying Neurocrine up to $575 million for rights to Neurocrine's experimental drug, and will make royalty payments if the drug gets to market.

If one of these companies could develop a pill that solves hot flashes, it could probably bring in $2 billion annually, easy.

Now is a good time for women's health care to claim some of the spotlight shining on the desire to improve health.

What do you think? What kind of money can drug companies make on treatments designed for women? Please let us know in the comments section below.

The Motley Fool owns shares of GlaxoSmithKline.

Fool online editor Kris Eddy owns no shares of any stocks mentioned in this article. Try any of our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is a stickler.