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The 6 Things You Probably Don't Know About 18-Year-Old Viagra

The Big Pharma success story is now being told.

21/10/2016 6:16 AM AEDT | Updated 22/10/2016 1:17 AM AEDT
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When Viagra first came on the market in 1998, it became everyone’s favorite punchline. Now, with the erectile dysfunction treatment generating more than $1.14 billion in U.S. sales last year and about $2 billion worldwide, the jokes have dried up and the Big Pharma success story is being told. Here are six facts about Viagra that you likely don’t know.

1. A chicken in every pot, a little blue pill in every medicine cabinet.

No, it’s not just your imagination. Viagra is everywhere. Since the little blue pill was brought to market as a prescription remedy for erectile dysfunction in 1998, it has been used at least once by 40 million men worldwide. 

2. Viaggravation is still a thing.

Just like every other 18-year-old, Viagra has its moments of annoying tenacity. Dubbed by the internet as  “Viaggravation, some men maintain their erections for many hours longer than necessary. Just as a caution: The drug is only for men with erectile dysfunction, not curiosity-seekers interested in seeing what happens. Bad things happen, fellas, bad things. Meet the legendary guy known as “the patient with the five-day boner.”

3. Italian lovers clearly love Viagra.

Men in Italy have purchased a total of 86 million little blue pills at a rate of about 12 per minute. That’s almost one pill for every two men in the over-40 age group (437 pills every 1,000 men), with most of the consumer base falling in the 50 to 55 range. Purchases of the pill throughout the Italian regions were varied. Lombardy, was the leader with more than 1 million pills purchased in 2013, according to an Italian site that actually tracks this stuff. The data was released as part of the national congress of the Italian Urology Society (SIU), that recently took place in Venice. The event, in addition to celebrating the drug’s “coming of age,” spotlighted Viagra’s dual personality. On one hand it liberated the conversation about erectile dysfunction, and on the other hand it opened the gates of abuse and illegal sales. The drug is not an aphrodisiac but a pharmacological therapy that needs to be prescribed by a doctor.

4. Viagra is the most counterfeited drug in the world.

The problem is so enormous, that Viagra manufacturer Pfizer created its own security force to help real law enforcement crack down on the fake drugs on the marketplace. They turn over a few cases a week for prosecution. Those counterfeits can be downright nasty stuff to take. Pfizer’s website lists, among other things, blue printer ink found in fake Viagra pills found on the black market. Yuck.

Fake drugs can hurt patients. Fake drugs also can hurt Big Pharma in lost profits. Helping to hunt down the bad guys is a win-win.

Of course, another way to win this particular “war on drugs” would be to simply lower the price, thus destroying a need for a black market. Generic Viagra is expected to be on the market in 2017. Until then, keep away from the fakes.  

5. Viagra’s marketing strategy was nothing short of revolutionary.

 Pfizer markets Viagra directly to  consumers ― the patients who will then go and ask their doctors about Viagra. It’s kind of a brilliant strategy because it addresses the behavior of its end users. Erectile dysfunction affects older men. Older men find it embarrassing to talk about. And older men don’t go to doctors if they can help it, says the Centers for Disease Control. By offering a fix for erectile dysfunction directly to the consumer while he watches the evening news, the marketing message is “go talk to your doctor.” And it worked: It got men into the doctor’s office.

Former presidential candidate and decorated war veteran Bob Dole appeared in a Viagra commercial in 1998 following being treated for prostate cancer. He wore the traditional uniform of dark suit and red power tie and delivered a straightforward message: “It’s a little embarrassing to talk about ED, but it’s so important to millions of men and their partners that I decided to talk about it publicly.”

Slam-dunk, home run, and whatever other sports metaphor for “it’s a win” you like.

6. Viagra medicalized what had been regarded as just a lifestyle condition.

Erectile dysfunction was just something men lived with. It was accepted as just part of the aging process for men. And then they created a pill for it, a pill that could extend a man’s sex life. 

Bingo.

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