What Happened When Viagra Lost Its Patent?

A brief history of Viagra

Since Viagra first hit the market in 1998, it’s become—for a medication, at least—something of a celebrity. 

The reasons for this are two-fold: on the one hand, Viagra is a byword for both sexual prowess and failure, two areas ripe for a million jokes and even more unoriginal punchlines. On the other, Viagra’s reputation is based on results: it’s the Little Blue Pill that’s kept millions of sex lives, well, alive. To put it even more simply, it does the job.

Oddly enough, healthy erections were not the goal of Pfizer when they first started researching the drug, medical name Sildenafil, thirty years ago. The scientists were originally looking for effective ways to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) and angina, a type of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow. Sildenafil, the team hypothesised, would remedy these conditions by opening up blood flow to the heart. As it turned out, the biochemical mechanism triggered by Sildenafil didn’t just clear pathways to the heart, it also opened the doors for blood to flow freely and easily to the penis.

After a number of successful clinical trials, Sildenafil was approved for treating erectile dysfunction in the US and Europe in 1998. The brand name Pfizer would patent it under: Viagra.

The moment Viagra lost its patent 

In the two decades that followed, Viagra was used by over 60 million men, netting Pfizer over £1 billion a year in revenue.

Unfortunately, all tumescent things must come to an end. According to US patent law, a medical giant like Pfizer can only hold the exclusive rights to a drug for a mere 20 years. Now that the patent has expired, licensed companies (like yours truly) are allowed to release unbranded, generic versions of Viagra.

As such, Viagra is now available at a substantially reduced price from companies other than Pfizer. And it is not sold under the name Viagra. It’s called Sildenafil. Better still, you can now be prescribed Sildenafil through an online consultation, meaning no awkward visits to your GP or mortifying interactions with a pharmacist who just so happens to be hard of hearing.

There are a few pre-existing medical conditions that mean a man shouldn’t be prescribed Sildenafil in the first place however before being recommended it, you’ll be required to undergo a simple online consultation to ensure it’s appropriate for you, and your medical history. So in general, it’s a safe licensed drug which has many many years of being successfully used to make getting hard easier.

But are Viagra and Sildenafil really the same thing? 

For those loyal to brand names, who like commercials with silver foxes playing golf and gallivanting with their (presumably) sexually satisfied wife in pastoral settings, this development might be unnerving. If Viagra is so effective, why switch to something else?

To reiterate: you’re not making a switch. You’d still be taking the exact same drug that delivers the exact same results. Sildenafil is to Viagra as Paracetamol is to Panadol. 

This is great news for anyone experiencing E.D., because you can now treat it at a vastly reduced cost. While this part of the post would usually serve as a neat “don’t take our word for it” segue, we’re going to insist that you do take our word for it, because we’re offering treatment from just £15, delivered to your door in an unmarked box. No more trips to the pharmacy, no more worries. Phew.

Sildenafil might not be an A-list name; but it’s just as effective as its more famous counterpart.