Generic versions of Viagra coming this week

Drug manufacturer Pfizer is coming up with a cheaper and generic version of their erectile dysfunction pill Viagra this week.

Reports reveal that Pfizer’s generic Viagra would be selling for half of its original non-generic $65-a-pill retail price. On Monday, Pfizer loses its patent-protected monopoly and this has forced them to start focusing on the generic version of the drug. Several other drugs too lose their patent protection and are to be sold in their generic versions cutting down their costs by around 90 percent say experts.

Viagra was launched in 1998 and contained Sildenafil which was the first effective drug for male impotence. This was followed in 2003 by Eli Lilly's Cialis that has two versions – on-demand pills and also low dose daily pills to be used in erectile dysfunction. Around 20 percent of the customers remained loyal to Viagra while rest switched to Cialis, said Pfizer spokespersons. This was one of the reasons why the company did not give up sales to the generic makers but instead launched their own generic version to maintain their loyal customer base. Jim Sage, president of U.S. brands for Pfizer Essential Health, said, “We believe that the story for Viagra isn't done. It's just going to be a new chapter.”

The company would also offer two new discount programs coming in January and also increase its copayment card discounts. Online home delivery program, Pfizer Direct would also offer a 50 percent discount to uninsured customers. Insured persons can get six to 10 pills, depending on plan limits for around $20 copayment. Experts and pharmaceuticals analysts have said that this is one of the most comprehensive marketing response and pricing strategies ever seen with a generic version.

Statistics have shown that over the last one year, 12 million prescriptions for Viagra and Cialis were filled in the United States. This resulted in a $3 billion sales says health data and clinical research company IQVIA. Sales had dropped since 2012 they added because of the steep pricing especially for those who are uninsured. This huge uptake of the medication has come from the increasing awareness and the availability according to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine led by Elizabeth Selvin, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Sildenafil acts by inhibiting an enzyme called phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5). This enzyme is responsible for regulating blood flow to the penis. When it is blocked, there is an increased blood flow to the penis leading to the erection. Sildenafil has received approval for other conditions as well including pulmonary arterial hypertension which affects premature babies. It is sold as brand name Revatio (made by Pfizer) when used for this condition.

More generic versions of Sildenafil are in the pipeline say analysts.

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