Viagra, high blood pressure, nitrates and death

Pfizer Seeks Non-Prescription Status for Viagra Despite Health Risk Worries

By Jim Edwards | Feb 11, 2010

Pfizer (PFE) is developing a new formulation of Viagrathat it hopes to make available without a prescription. The over-the-counter product is planned for launch in the U.K. in 2011, according to Campaign, which notes that the company is already seeking an ad agency for the new, as-yet unnamed, brand:

The product contains an ingredient that is also found in Viagra, but has been altered in a bid to make it available to consumers over the counter.

Pfizer declined to confirm or deny the plan in an email to BNET (see below). The OTC move is part of Pfizer’s years-long effort to reposition Viagra from a doctor-supervised treatment for a legitimate medical condition to a party fun drug.

The problem, of course, is that Viagra can kill you if you take it while you’re taking nitrates for blood pressure. Men with blood pressure problems frequently also suffer from erectile dysfunction, so the Viagra-nitrates problem is not trivial.

The European Medicines Agencypreviously rejected Pfizer’s bid to allow Viagra to go OTC because it feared that if men could get the drug without seeing a doctor serious underlying health conditions — such as blood pressure, diabetes or cholesterol problems — might be missed.

At the time, Pfizer issued a combative statement pointing out that millions of men are already getting the drug on the black market and that it would be safer for them to at least see a pharmacist who can ask them a few questions and give them useful information before taking the drug.

Pfizer’s advertising for Viagra has, historically, had something of a split personality. Currently, the U.S. ads feature a sensible middle-aged couple in which the man has had “the Viagra talk” with his doctor. But a couple of years ago, Viagra was advertised with an online advergame and a garage band singing “Viva Viagra!”

In foreign territories, Viagra has gotten a more loosey-goosey, non-medical treatment. Canada has seen some humorous ads about the drug being a cure for “antiquing.” South Africa saw a print campaign featuring older, graying studs in the suggestive roles ofmilkman, pool boy and mailman. In Israel, Pfizer is now selling Viagra on the web (with a prescription). And the company has sponsored a highly non-medical Valentine’s Day survey about the role of pillow talk in romance.

No other prescription drug is marketed like this. It’s a far cry fromthe 1999 ads featuring straight talk from Bob Dole.

The marketing has worked. While Viagra’s sales slipped in Q1 andQ2 last year, they picked up again by 9 percent worldwide in Q4.

Clearly, even though the Viagra patent is set to expire in 2012, Pfizer believes that there’s life in the old dog yet.

Here’s Pfizer’s statement in full:

“Since its introduction in 1998, there has been ongoing speculation about Viagra’s alternate uses and delivery mechanism. As with many of our medicines, Pfizer routinely evaluates ways to improve the delivery and formulation of our medicines to bring the greatest value to patients and healthcare professionals and continues to do so. Pfizer withdrew a regulatory application to switch Viagra in the European Union in November 2008, pending further evaluation.

Viagra is available only by prescription from a health professional for the treatment of erectile dysfunction in adult males and should always be used in accordance with its approved labelling.”

http://industry.bnet.com/pharma/10006636/pfizer-seeks-non-prescription-status-for-viagra-despite-health-risk-worries/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+bnet%2Fpharma+%28BNET+Industries+-+Pharma+Insights%29

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