See also Pharma Marketing Blog: Viagra Spray Not Far Away?
, January 10, 2007: DRUGS giant Pfizer is planning a spray version of its blockbuster Viagra treatment in an attempt to retain its dominance of the lucrative impotence drugs market.
The spray, which would be administered orally, is being developed under agreement with Novodel, the American drug delivery firm, according to sources.
In a related development, separate sources at Pfizer have told The Business that an over-the-counter version of Viagra is being discussed. This has been prompted by moves by rival pharmaceutical giants and generics firms to bring competing products to the market. It is likely that the spray will be seen as the obvious vehicle for Pfizer to enter the over-the-counter market.
Novodel develops spray versions of drugs in partnership with other companies. It is also developing spray versions of GlaxoSmithKline’s Imitrex migraine drug and Sanofi-Aventis’ Ambien insomnia drug. Back in 2000, Pfizer tested a Viagra nasal spray which never came to market. Rivals are developing a gel that will be available without prescription.
Last year, Viagra earned Pfizer $1.6bn (£800m, E1.2bn) worldwide. But its money-spinning status has been hit by counterfeit versions widely available on the internet, and patent challenges to its active ingredient sildenafil citrate, in developing countries such as China and Columbia.
As well as the 23m men who have already been prescribed the drug, millions more are thought to have ordered counterfeit versions online, according to the World Health Organisation.
Pfizer’s worldwide patent for Viagra expires between 2011 to 2013 and its market share faces increasing challenges from other prescription drugs such as Eli Lilly’s Cialis, whose effects last for up to 36 hours, and Bayer’s Levitra.
In July, GlaxoSmithKline announced that it was developing an over-the-counter gel for impotence treatment in partnership with Futura Medical. It could reach pharmacies within three years.
More than 150m men suffer from mild or moderate impotence worldwide. Generic sildenafil is available over the counter in China.
Patients are often reluctant to seek advice from a doctor – Futura claims that only one in five men is prepared to get medical help – so an over-the-counter variant is seen as key to tapping a dormant market.
Analysts have expressed concerns over possible links between Viagra use and cardiac problems. The most common side effects of Viagra are headache, facial flushing, and upset stomach. Pfizer sold its consumer division for £9.1bn to Johnson & Johnson in June. It would need to find a new distribution mechanism to bring an over-the-counter version to market.
In December, Pfizer saw off a challenge from three Chinese companies making pharmaceutical products that mimic the distinctive blue diamond shape of Viagra.
A Colombian judge ordered Pfizer to withdraw Viagra from the market in favour of a local generics producer earlier in the year. Counterfeit drugs are a less manageable threat to Pfizer’s iconic product, which was developed in Kent. Often manufactured in China, India or Russia, fake Viagra has been found to contain cement.