Celebrating Viagra’s two decades of success

Mar 27, 2018

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Celebrating Viagra’s two decades of success

Posted in : Blog on by : Dr Richard Petty

The world celebrates Viagra as it turns 20. This simply implies that the little blue pill has been saving men from erectile dysfunction for the past 20 years and still counting. The drug was launched in the United States exactly 20 years ago and it took the world by storm right from the very first few weeks.

The drug has generated billions of dollars of Pfizer, its manufacturer. Even imitators made a staggering amount of returns from it. Here is the history of the highly successful drug from its accidental discovery to its various versions. This is how the little blue pill has fared so far.

How it was discovered by fluke

In the early 90’s, Pfizer decided to carry out an experiment using Sildenafil (the main ingredient in Viagra) to treat angina. It was discovered that it could not calm thoracic pain caused by angina but it gave male recipients strong erection as a side effect. That marked the beginning of another era in medicine. At that point, Pfizer did not know they had hit a goldmine.

In addition, most of the male volunteers also experienced improved sexual performance. Fortunately, at this time, treatments for erectile dysfunction were complex, impracticable and inefficient. What were used to treat erectile dysfunction then were penis injections and mini-suppositories being inserted into the urethra. Since Sildenafil failed in soothing pains, Pfizer decided to use it to treat erectile dysfunction and it worked wonders.

What boosted the success of this wonder drug is the endorsement of the US Food and Drug Administration Agency (FDA). The drug was approved on March 27, 1998. Following the endorsement, the drug immediately hit stores all over the United States.

How it achieved instant success

The success of this drug can be described as immediate. Immediately after FDA’s endorsement, orders began to come in their thousands. Within the first two weeks after the drug went on sale, over 145,000 prescriptions were written.

To underscore the effectiveness of Viagra, people bought it in black market in countries like Saudi Arabia, Poland, and Israel at about five times its legal cost in the United States which is around $10. That implies that people bought the pill at prices between $40 and $50 outside the United States. Pfizer began to make the real revenue after launching it in Europe in September 1998.The annual sales figure rose by 30 percent from 1998 to 1999 and it also increased by the same percentage from 1999 to 2000. The revenue surpassed what Pfizer had projected.

Coping with counterfeits

The major challenge with every successful product is to manage counterfeits and imitations and Viagra isn’t an exception. Counterfeits of the drug were (and are still) everywhere. Some of the counterfeits were made in India and Thailand and they were made in several other countries .

The situation got worse as Pfizer found out that about 80 percent of the Viagra pills bought online are counterfeits. What made it a serious issue was that some of the counterfeits were found to contain printer ink, plaster, pesticides, or other toxic substances.

Other uses of Viagra

Due to its success, even people that are not suffering from erectile dysfunction also began to use it to boost their sexual performance. It was also found out in 1999 that some young partygoers also take some of it. World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) tested Sildenafil and found out that it only has doping effects in high altitude so athletes can also use it.