Pfizer's New Program May Help Men Get Up the Courage to Treat Erectile Dysfunction
In a move designed to take bashfulness out of the erectile dysfunction equation, drugmaker Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) told The Associated Press that it will begin selling its popular pill, Viagra, directly to patients on its website.
A prescription will still be needed, but coming face to face with a pharmacist in an exchange many consider embarrassing is now a thing of the past. No longer will anxious men feel like they have to step up to the window with eight items they don’t need - including a bottle of yeast tablets, bubble gum, a magazine and a package of light bulbs – then cautiously slide their Viagra prescription across the counter, whispering, “While you’re at it, can you fill this too, please?”
Now, all that will be required is a prescription, a computer and a click of the mouse button. No fuss, no muss. And, best of all, no sense of public shame.
Other major drug makers will watch Pfizer's move closely. If it works, look for a plethora of online offerings, especially for drugs for non-urgent conditions with an embarrassment factor built in. These might include diet drugs, medicines for baldness and birth control pills.
Les Funtleyder, a health care strategist at private equity fund Poliwogg believes Pfizer's site will attract "fence-sitters" who are nervous about buying online. "If it works,” Funtleyder said, “everybody will hop on the train."
Since everyone, including men with erectile dysfunction, loves a bargain, Pfizer is rolling out the program with an attractive offer. Instead of the regular price of $25-a-pill, Pfizer is offering 3 free pills with the first order and 30 percent off the second order.
Viagra is one of Pfizer’s top drugs, with $2 billion in worldwide revenue last year. It’s also the most counterfeited drug in the U.S., according to the company. Part of the reason is the so-called “double-whammy” benefit for counterfeiters. The drug is expensive and it treats a condition that many consider embarrassing.
One important false rumor Pfizer hopes to counter with its new program is the notion that online pharmacies selling copycat Viagra claim they are selling generic forms of the drug. There is no such thing as generic Viagra. Pfizer’s patents do not expire until 2020 and until then only Pfizer can make and sell legitimate forms of the drug.
Vic Cavelli, head of marketing for primary care medicines at Pfizer, said the company plans to have drugstore chain CVS Caremark Corp. (NYSE: CVS) fill the orders placed on viagra.com.
Edward Jones analyst, Judson Clark, is unsure about whether Pfizer’s new strategy will help counter drooping Viagra sales. He expects a 5 percent decline each year for the next five years and, while he says he thinks the plan represents a novel approach, he doesn’t know if it will provide the boost Pfizer hopes for.
Pfizer was selling at $28.77 in late trading Monday, down more than five percent on the day. CVS Caremark was trading at $57.97, up almost 1 percent.
At the time of this writing, Jim Probasco had no position in any mentioned securities.
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