Viagra now generic in Europe

Viagra is one of the world’s most recognized drugs. Viagra is also expensive, costing about $10 per pill. Not surprisingly, this is not covered by insurance.

Europeans recently got lucky (pun intended). Viagra went generic in Europe in June. This should bring the cost down significantly . . . for Europeans. Unfortunately, in the US, Viagra remains patent-protected. Pfizer owns a US patent on the use of sildenafil (the generic name for Viagra) to produce an erection. Hence, in the US, Viagra won’t go generic until this patent expires in 2019.

Viagra/sildenafil works by relaxing blood vessels and increasing blood flow. In healthy men, the action is most prominently visible in the blood vessels of the penis, leading to an erection.

Sildenafil is also the active ingredient of a different medicine called Revatio. Revatio is used for pulmonary arterial hypertension, or PAH (high blood pressure in the lungs). In PAH, blood vessel dilation improves the blood flow in the lungs. Revatio went generic in November 2012 (I blogged about this at the time – see here).

The dose of sildenafil is slightly different for the two drugs, (Viagra is generally dosed at 50 mg, though some patients take 25 mg while a few others require 100 mg. Revatio comes in 20 mg pills). Viagra-users could take two or three pills of generic Revatio to get the desired effect.  At the time of writing my post about generic Revatio, I had anticipated that a few people people would identify that they could ask for generic Revatio (at a cost of pennies per pill). I further expected that the flow of information via the internet would popularize the idea. On seeing the news that Viagra went generic in Europe, I decided to take a look . . . did my prediction come to fruition? Is generic Revatio being used in the US in place of Viagra?

There are data providers that track the number of prescriptions written for individual drugs. Here are the numbers:

Prior to its going generic, Revatio prescriptions were stable at 15,000 per month. Since going generic, there are now about 20,000 prescriptions per month. Therefore, there are about 5,000 generic Revatio prescriptions each month that are being used in place of Viagra. However, there are about 1.5 million monthly prescriptions written for erectile dysfunction. The number of generic Revatio prescriptions is so small in comparison it doesn’t even show up as a rounding error.

Does this mean people are not as clever as I had thought? That seems to be the case.

Pfizer will sell about $1 billion of Viagra in the US in 2013.

 

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