Pfizer to launch its own little white pill


Linda A. Johnson

TRENTON, NJ – The little blue pill that has helped millions of men in the bedroom turns white. Drugmaker Pfizer is launching its own cheaper generic version of Viagra rather than losing most of the sales when the impotence pill gets its first generic competition next week.

Pfizer Inc. will begin selling the white pill at half the retail price of $ 65 a pill on Monday, when its patent-protected monopoly ends. Generic maker Teva Pharmaceuticals can then start selling its version, but does not disclose the price.

Many more generics will go on sale next summer, which will steadily reduce the price of generics, perhaps by 90%.

“Patients pay big bucks. When generic Viagra is released, they will be very happy,” said Dr. Nachum Katlowitz, urologist at Staten Island University Hospital in New York.

Launched in 1998, Viagra was the first pill against impotence. It has turned a private frustration for many aging men into a publicly discussed medical condition with easy treatment far more appealing than options like penile injections and implants. Pfizer’s first television commercials for the little blue pill even coined the term erectile dysfunction, short for ED.

Eli Lilly’s Cialis was released in 2003 and now dominates the US market with both on-demand and low-dose daily pills. Viagra is just behind.

Pfizer claims that its market research shows that 20% of customers are loyal to Viagra. So rather than ditching sales to generic manufacturers like the brand name drug makers once did, the company is selling its own generic and fighting to keep men on its blue pills as well.

“We believe the story of Viagra is not over. This is just going to be a new chapter,” said Jim Sage, president of US brands for Pfizer Essential Health, which sells its older drugs.

In January, the drugmaker will offer two new rebate programs and increase its rebates on co-pay cards. Uninsured men can get half of the brand name Viagra through an innovative online home delivery program, Pfizer Direct. Many insured patients will be able to get a one-month prescription – typically six to 10 tablets, depending on plan limits – for as little as a $ 20 co-payment.

This photo from Monday, December 4, 2017 shows a Viagra pill from Pfizer, left, and the company's generic version, sildenafil citrate, at Pfizer Inc., headquartered in New York City.  The drugmaker is launching its own cheaper generic version of Viagra rather than losing sales when its impotence pill gets its first generic competition.

“This is the most comprehensive pricing and marketing answer I have seen for a generic,” said Erik Gordon, pharmaceutical analyst at the University of Michigan School of Business. “This is unheard of.”

Gordon believes Pfizer’s reduced prices will hold some patients back and attract others to buy pills, often fakes, on the Internet.

Dr Matthias Hofer, a urologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said some of his insured patients who take Viagra would not want a generic. “They will be delighted if they can save the money and get the Pfizer branded product,” he said.

Last year, more than 12 million prescriptions for Viagra and Cialis were filled in the United States, generating a combined turnover of $ 3 billion, according to the health data and clinical research company. IQVIA. However, prescriptions have fallen by more than 20% since 2012, as repeated price hikes have put the pills out of reach for many men without good insurance.

According to health information analytics firm Elsevier, in the last decade alone, retail prices have fallen from around $ 10 to $ 62 a pill for Viagra and from $ 11 to $ 61 for Viagra. Cialis. Pharmacies and other middlemen add a few more dollars per pill.

Generic Viagra, called sildenafil, will become even more affordable starting June 11, when other versions go on sale.

“A lot of patients already know it’s getting generic and they want it,” said Aracely Pena, medical assistant at San Diego Sexual Medicine.

Cialis and Levitra, another pill launched in 2003, will have their own generic competition next fall.

In the meantime, some doctors specializing in sexual dysfunction have found other options. Some people prescribe Generic Revatio, the blood pressure pill Pfizer was testing when older patients reported stronger erections as a side effect. It contains one-fifth of the dose of sildenafil in Viagra and costs as little as $ 1 per pill.

Northwestern’s Hofer arranges for his patients to receive custom-made pills at a few specialty pharmacies.

In this December 1, 2017 photo, patient Daniel Lobello, left, speaks with Dr. Matthias Hofer, a urologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.  Lobello, 60, thinks many men would likely start using generic or cheaper branded Viagra.

Daniel Lobello, 60, is happy with these pills, but believes many men would likely use cheaper generic or branded Viagra.

“It’s great” that the prices are going down, said the West Chester, Illinois electrical inspector, “because it’s something that men need.”

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