LITTLE WHITE PILL

Pfizer is releasing its own generic Viagra to stay relevant

All good things must come to an end, including the exclusivity of Pfizer’s prized little blue pill.

On Dec. 11, some companies that manufacture generic pills will be allowed to start selling their own versions of Pfizer’s Viagra, and the New York-based pharmaceutical company is clinging to its potency pill with all its might. Rather than allowing other companies to dominate the generic market, Pfizer is launching its own Viagra generic, the AP reports, which will sell at only $32.50 per pill—half the usual $65 price tag. Also on the 11th, Teva Pharmaceuticals is set to release a generic version of the pill, as is Mylan, but there’s no word about the cost of those drugs.

Per US patent law, drug makers get 20 years of exclusive market rights to selling their pills. Technically, Viagra’s patent holds until 2020, but generic companies have the right to challenge patents. If a generic company can prove that a patent is somehow obvious or unoriginal, they can sometimes win rights to sell generic versions ahead of a patent’s actual expiration. Teva and Mylan have stayed tight-lipped about the specifics of how they’ve come to challenge this patent, likely to maintain their own brief exclusivity on generics. The AP reports that several more companies are set to release generics in the summer of 2018, which could lower the price by up to 90%.

Since Viagra hit the market in 1998, it’s been used by 62 million men all over the world, a spokesperson told Quartz previously. It had a dramatically uplifting effect on prescription drug prices at the time, becoming an instant hit. It’s biggest competitor has been Cialis, which is a daily pill for erectile dysfunction launched by Eli Lilly in 2003, although there have been plenty of counterfeits floating around as well. In 2016, Viagra held a market share of about 45%.

According to the AP, market researchers at Pfizer think that roughly 20% of its customers will still buy name-brand pills, even with cheaper generics available. It also plans to start selling these prescriptions at the same discounted price as these generics to uninsured patients through Pfizer’s online portal, and for as little as $20 in stores to men with certain insurance plans.

Inevitably, Pfizer will eventually lose its grip on the erectile dysfunction market. But for now, the company is holding on with all its might.


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