Erectile Drugs May Get Flashy Makeover

Unique formulations and packaging could be on the horizon as drug makers compete with top-selling brands and impending generics.

Unique formulations and packaging are on the horizon for erectile drugs as drug makers compete with top-selling brands and impending generics.

The chemical patent for Viagra is scheduled to expire in 2012, and Pfizer is gearing up to face potential generic competition in a number of ways. The drug maker’s most recent endeavor is Viagra Jet, a chewable version that launched last month in Mexico, the New York Times reported.

The disintegrating tablet is no different form the original formulation of Viagra, but eliminates the need to drink a glass of water before its active ingredient, sildenafil, takes effect. Although Pfizer has no official plans to market Viagra Jet in the United States, it does intend to offer it to other countries in the developing world, according to the article.

Profits from the new formulation could help stave off tough competition, which Pfizer faces not only from generic versions that could enter the market as early as next year, but from competing brands as well, including Cialis and Levitra. Both drugs introduced innovative variations that have been popular with patients.

Eli Lilly’s Cialis, which is available in daily and 36-hour formulations, is expected to eclipse Viagra as the top-selling erectile dysfunction drug in 2011. Bayer has expanded Levitra’s reach abroad with dissolvable tablets that are available in 9 European countries, NYT reported.

"It's pocket-friendly, discreet and gives the product a playful edge over its competitors," said Thomas Proske, the global brand manager for Levitra at Bayer Healthcare, who described the thin, black package as "the size of a half-dozen stacked credit cards, with four pills on a card that slides out."

The FDA approved a US version of the drug, called Staxyn, in June 2010, but American rights owners GlaxoSmithKline and Merck have not announced when the drug will be available to US patients, the article noted. If and when it is introduced, pharmacists can expect a round of new questions about the safety and efficacy of erectile dysfunction drugs and their recent iterations.

Following Viagra’s patent expiration on March 27, 2012, pharmacists may also be asked to help patients decide whether the bells and whistles of new branded products are worth the extra expense. At prices significantly lower than the $10 patients currently pay for a single dose of Viagra, a simple generic version of the tried and true “little blue pill” may be the most attractive option to consumers.

For other articles in this issue, see:

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