10th anniversary of Viagra

Viagra at 10 as popular as ever

3 April, 2008

The wonder drug called Viagra, that little, diamond-shaped blue pill, is 10 years old and still very popular globally.

Viagra, the first oral treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED), was in fact developed accidentally by scientists of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Laboratories. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug for use on March 27, 1998.

Ever since, Viagra - which has become a synonym for anti-impotence medicine – has changed the sex lives of millions of men and women around the world.

In the process, Viagra is also becoming the fastest-selling drug in history. Its commercial success has been phenomenal – the drug earned its manufacturer Pfizer a whopping £1.5 billion annually, according to a report in the British newspaper Telegraph.

The website foxnews.com quoted Dr Thomas Brown, of Atlantic Urological Associates, as remarking: “It took Coca-Cola 100 years to be the most recognised logo in the world and Viagra has replaced that position in 5 years.”

In a report, the French news agency AFP quoted Dr Brian Klee, senior medical director at Pfizer, as saying: “Originally, we were testing sildenafil, the active drug in Viagra, as a cardiovascular drug and for its ability to lower blood pressure. But one thing that was found during those trials is that people didn’t want to give the medication back because of the side-effect of having erections that were harder, firmer and lasted longer.”

It has been estimated that about 30 million men in 120 countries take Viagra, with 9 tablets being prescribed every second!

Many millions more buy the drug from internet websites, where Viagra is sold for as little as 50 pence a tablet, compared with the £5 it costs at a chemist, says the Telegraph report.

In Britain, the National Health Service (NHS) spent £58 million on Viagra in 2007 and dispensed 17 million prescriptions – 8.3 million to men under 60 and a further 8.7 million to those over 60.

According to the Telegraph, “perhaps the greatest success of Viagra has been in tackling the social stigma men attach to impotence, by making it easier for those who face the misery associated with sexual dysfunction to approach their doctors. In a culture which sets enormous store by masculine ‘performance,’ admitting to impotence, even to a general practitioner, is embarrassing for many men.”

Dr Ian Gillingham, a general practitioner based in London, was quoted as saying: “The fact is, they will try all manner of things before coming into the surgery. They will write to agony aunts, health columnists, practically anyone, before making a doctor’s appointment. Men find it much easier now. It is easier for them to come in and say, ‘I think I may need Viagra.’ It means they don’t have to use the impotence word, which helps.”

Before the discovery of Viagra, the anti-impotency treatments available ranged from using vacuum pumps to injections – all time-consuming processes. In sharp contrast, Viagra starts working about one hour after being taken.

The criteria set by Britain’s National Health Service for prescribing Viagra are stringent: only those who suffer from diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, polio, prostate cancer, kidney failure, severe pelvic injury, neurological disease, spinal cord injury or spina bifida are entitled to receive the drug on the NHS.

However, since the causes of impotence are psychological in about 30% cases, some 2 million British men each year use the internet to buy Viagra, according to the Telegraph.

What is worrying health experts more is the fact that more and more people are using Viagra as a “recreational drug” by mixing it with cocaine or Ecstasy. Doctors describe it as a lethal combination.

Even when taken with legitimate prescription, Viagra has its possible side-effects such as headaches, flushes, upset stomachs and, bizarrely, a blue tinge to vision.






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