The History of Viagra
March 27, 1998. That day changed the lives of millions of men and women across the United States and around the world with the release of a single document by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That document approved the use of what has popularly become known as the “blue pill”, Viagra.
Viagra's chemical name is Sildenafil. It was the world's first erectile dysfunction medication to be administered orally. Sildenafil was originally developed by the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer as a drug for cardiovascular patients to lower blood pressure.
When Sildenafil was undergoing testing for its original purposes in the early 90s, researchers were stunned by its ability to induce penile erections within 30 to 60 minutes after taking the drug. It appeared that Sildenafil was improving erectile firmness and duration. Researchers first became aware of this side effect when the men in the trials refused to give up the medication. As a treatment for hypertension and angina pectoris, the drug was not nearly as effective.
Recognizing the immense potential of this wonder drug, Pfizer fast-tracked its development process. The Sildenafil patent process was completed within just two years, and the drug was officially patented in 1996.
Even more surprisingly, the FDA approval process for its use as a treatment for erectile dysfunction also took only two years. That is virtually unheard of in the bureaucratic, tedious world of drug approval.
If they had expedited the processes based on anticipated demand, both Pfizer and the FDA were quickly vindicated. Sold for between $8 and $10 a pill, the Viagra bumper returns added over a billion dollars to Pfizer's coffers in the first year alone. It holds the record for the fastest sales growth of a prescription medication.
Pfizer scored a coup by managing to rope in former presidential candidate, Bob Dole into its commercials. The DTC (direct to consumer) marketing coupled with a reliable face to remove the stigma of erectile dysfunctional also worked wonders.
Another aspect of the Viagra story crucial to its success was how easy Pfizer and the FDA made the process of getting your hands on the pills. Aside from the 'talk to your GP' angle, Viagra would also be shipped directly to patients once they had filled out a casual online consultation form.
By 2008, sales of Viagra had touched $2 billion. Today, it is used by over 35 million men around the world.
As with anything that achieves cult status and an established place in popular culture, many myths have risen up around Viagra. One of the most persistent and widespread is that Viagra causes spontaneous erections. That is not the case - the drug only works when there is direct sexual stimulation. Viagra relaxes the muscles in the penis, allowing the blood vessels to dilate further than otherwise would be the case. This dilation allows a greater volume of blood to enter the erectile tissue, which results in firmer erections.
There have been cases of Viagra causing embarrassing problems, particularly when the recommended dosage is exceeded. Men of all ages have presented themselves in emergency rooms with erections that have lasted hours and refuse to dissipate.