Viagra: A Brief History



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The history of Viagra was paved with help from a drug called phentolamine, a breakthrough drug in the treatment of erectile dysfunction which came in 1983. Until that time, Erectile Dysfunction (ED), an inability to achieve erection was believed to be primarily mental. It was at the 1983 American Urological Association meeting in Las Vegas when Dr. Giles Brindley injected his penis with the drug phentolamine, after which, he appeared on stage, dropped his pants to display one of the first drug-induced erections to the audience of urologists.

The reason for Brindley’s erection? Here’s what happened:

  • The arteries of a limp penis are constricted, and they keep blood from entering the corpora cavernosa.
  • Brindley’s injection relaxed the smooth muscle in the artery walls inside his penis, causing them to open up.
  • Blood surged into the corpora cavernosa, and the blood pressure inflated his penis, giving him an instant erection.

Viagra makes the process a whole lot easier by doing the same kind of thing with a pill instead of an injection. Another advantage of Viagra over an injection of phentolamine is that Viagra only causes an erection when the man is sexually aroused. Phentolamine, by contrast, causes an immediate and uncontrolled erection.

Mid April 1998: Viagra was launched by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in the US as a treatment for impotence and different degrees of erectile dysfunction after an unexpected side effect — Viagra (sildenafil) was originally an ineffective treatment for angina but doctors began noticing patients reluctance to stop treatment of the drug, even after surgery had dealt with any angina problems. One by one the Viagra users were reporting dramtically improved sex life to be the reason — Within less than a month, despite high prices, over 2 million Viagra precscriptions were being written on a weekly basis in the US alone. Added to this was Viagra’s popularity with the global club culture. As sales of Viagra rose and so did sales of many other impotence drugs along with lofty claims of camparable of better effects as Viagra.

Over the following five years more than 95% of the erectile dysfunction (ED) market belonged to Pfizer though not without competition from sharp competitors like Bayer & GlaxoSmithKline and Lilly & Icos. Today, more than 70 million web customers can purchase Viagra at lower costs with ease despite its classification as a prescription drug. Additionally a large number of online pharmacies now offer Viagra very cheaply and without medical council. Added to this is the influx of ‘fake’ Viagra which contains very little to none of the drug whatsoever.

All of these factors make the direction of Viagra prices a bit uncertain. Many Viagra patients eagerly await cheaper treatments.

Despite Pfizer being the only legal producer of the original branded Viagra, there are over a hundred companies manufacturing generic versions, such as ‘Kamagra’, an Indian variety. That being said, only Pfizer, with its branded and legally manufactured Viagra is able to maitain somewhat higher prices and many are understandably weary of purchasing illegally produced, generic drugs. Fast-forward to 2010 when Pfizer’s Viagra patent will expire and other drug manufacturers will be allowed to produce sildenafil and be subject to the same regulations as Pfizer. This means discounts as high as 80% on numerous generic viagra and branded sildenafil treatments. At such a point Pfizer will have to lower prices to within range of competitors, which will mean further discounts for Viagra patients.

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