The rise and fall of Viagra

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 19 September 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:824

Viagra has probably received more media hype than any other drug. Abi Berger examines how this massive publicity will affect general practitioners, who may eventually have to prescribe the impotence treatment

  1. Abi Berger, general practitioner
  1. London

    See p 759,760, 765

    It must surely be every drug company's dream: to have a product so sexy that the need for marketing and public relations has been obviated by a tidal wave of media hype. Since March 1998, when the little blue pills became available in the United States, we have had news stories, regular updates, features, television and radio programmes, and even serious broadsheet editorials on the myths and legends of what has been dubbed the “Pfizer riser.”

    Sadly for Pfizer, however, this very hype may be their undoing. The predicted demand for Viagra (sildenafil), and the consequences this demand is expected to have for the national drug budget, has caused the British government to ban its prescription on the NHS, at least for the time being (p 765).

    However, it is better to have realised that this drug has critical implications and delay it now (albeit somewhat late in the day considering how long the man in the street has known about Viagra), than blushingly use the retrospectoscope when all hope of control—legal or otherwise—has long gone.

    The debate about who should eventually be able to prescribe sildenafil continues to rage. Most general practitioners I know are rather hoping it will become a drug to be prescribed by …

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