Sildenafil, widely known by its name brand, Viagra, has been around for over 15 years as a revolutionary in the field of erectile dysfunction. The diamond-shaped blue pill was created in the UK, in a Sandwich, Kent research facility operated by Pfizer. Before the advent of Viagra, “erectile dysfunction” was not even known as such but was instead known as “male impotence.” Sildenafil was originally created as a prescription medication to be used in the treatment of high blood pressure. It was only once it had been created that the researchers at Pfizer realized its truly ingenious (and profitable) use: improving male erections and performance by increasing blood-flow to the penis.
By campaigning with clever advertising and renaming “male impotence” to “erectile dysfunction,” Viagra has removed the majority of the stigma that once surrounded this medical issue. For a while, Viagra was even the fastest-selling drug in the United States. But even though its home-country is the UK, Viagra faces the challenge of losing its longstanding patent in the country. The pharmaceutical company now faces major opposition from competing companies who are able to sell the drug in its generic form because Viagra no longer owns the patent for sildenafil. The generic form of this medication is sold under its chemical name, which is sildenafil citrate. The loss of their patent also means a probable monetary loss for Pfizer, since the price of the blue pill will fall significantly in the UK, from £10 a tablet to perhaps less than £1.
Viagra still has a few years left on its patent in the United States, and it will continue to compete in the UK by releasing its own version of the generic form of the medication sildenafil citrate. Viagra still makes over $2 billion in revenue per year for Pfizer, and it is the company’s sixth biggest seller.
Now that sildenafil can be sold generically, the market is likely to grow significantly as it becomes less expensive and more available to consumers. Pharmaceutical companies and law enforcement alike also hope that the black market for Viagra, which has been a healthy one, will be reduced significantly because of this reduction in cost. Dr. Tom Brett, medical director of Lloydspharmacy Online Doctor stated on the subject:
“Hundreds of websites have been shut down and 68,000 illegal doses were seized last year – although it’s impossible to know the extent of the problem.”
Overall, the patent-loss for Pfizer could prove to be a positive step for those who are prescribed the medication and for the pharmaceutical community as a whole.