How Viagra Won The Nobel Prize

Viagra’s fame

When it comes to brand recognition, Viagra has to be up there with the likes of Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Disney.

Granted, maybe it’s not up up there, but for a drug intended to help men achieve an erection when they’ve been experiencing erection difficulties, Viagra is probably more of a talking point than you’d expect.

To some extent, this comes as no surprise. Literally and figuratively, penises have a way of steering the cultural conversation. But then there’s also another reason Viagra—as well as its generic counterpart, Sildenafil—has stuck around: it works.

Since it first hit the market in the early 1990s, Viagra has been used by over 62 million men. Furthermore, around 47,000 participants have taken part in clinical trials involving Sildenafil, yielding research that has found it to be safe and effective in 80% of men who use it.

The big prize

Viagra’s effectiveness is backed up by a body of medical research; research so thorough, that the drug is even linked to a Nobel Prize victory.

This is the part of the article that calls for some history:

When Pfizer scientists first discovered Sildenafil in 1989, solving erectile dysfunction was not their goal. Instead, they were looking for ways to treat heart-related chest pain. Their work involved nitric oxide, as recent research had proved it relaxed muscle cells in the cardiovascular system.

This research took place in 1986, and it was conducted by Dr Robert Furchgott of the State University of New York, and Dr Louis Ignarro of the University of California, Los Angeles. A decade earlier, Dr Ferid Murad, an MD and Pharmacologist in Houston, set the groundwork for the research for Dr Furchgott and Dr Ignarro after discovering that nitroglycerin released nitric oxide.

In the years that followed, nitric oxide was vital to research into not only Sildenafil, but sickle cell anaemia cases, osteoporosis and malaria. As a result, drugs designed to treat hypertension, atherosclerosis, shock and, you guessed it, erectile dysfunction have all been studied extensively.

For that reason, 1998 saw Dr Robert Furchgott, Dr Louis Ignarro and Dr Ferid Murad all awarded the The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

It reveals the extent of the medical expertise that went into creating the drug. Sildenafil is the result of decades of award winning work into a chemical that has yielded solutions for a wide array of medical conditions. The Nobel Prize is a reflection of the safety, effectiveness and cultural importance of all the drugs and treatments associated with nitric oxide.

Viagra may be a famous name; but it’s a famous name with the medical and scientific credentials to back up the importance of the main ingredient – Sildenafil.