Viagra “The Blue Pill”- Discovery by chance.

A research product for some heart disease became a blockbuster molecule & could create a billion-dollar industry in a very short time. This is the story of “Viagra – the little Blue pill”. It was being researched as a treatment for Heart & chest ailment but ultimate fate was to become a blockbuster molecule for the treatment of Erectile Dysfunction(ED).

During the clinical trials of Sildenafil (Viagra), male subjects taking the pills consistently reported long-lasting erections. Further investigations revealed that Viagra which was designed to relax blood vessels around the heart to improve blood flow could induce marked penile erections.

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The Viagra launch story is full of drama. It was not a simple molecule to be launched. There were various issues that needed to be taken care of while launching the blue pill.

  1. Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is directly connected to the masculinity of a male & it seemingly is a stigma in the society. How to reach the right consumer because of  the secrecy element about this particular ailment?
  2. How to promote the drug & who will promote the drug (Direct to patient advertisement is allowed in US)?
  3. What should be the Price considerations?
  4. Side effect profile: How to tackle the patients who are on heart ailment medications already as this drug had shown negative attributes towards patients taking nitrates?
  5. Launch in India with a higher price tag while cheaper alternatives were already available.
  6. Fake/Spurious drugs sold online (due to stigma consumers try to buy it online) – impact on sales of Viagra!
  7. Drug misused mostly by youngsters to increase the sex time during parties or dates.

 

Brief about approval from US FDA

Brand Name: Viagra

Molecule Name: sildenafil citrate

Company: Pfizer

Application No.:  020895

Approval Date: 3/27/1998 & commercialized in the same year

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A” blockbuster drug is generally defined as a product that satisfies the following four criteria:

  • the drug must represent significant improvements in drug therapy
  • it must drive the growth of or even create, top-ten pharmaceutical companies
  • it should form a top rank of products with exceptional sales
  • last, but by no means least, it should generate global sales of at least US$ 1 billion.

Viagra could emerge as numero-uno in all of the above-mentioned criteria.

The Strategic Launch of Viagra

Political & Religious sentiments to be taken care of: The Company took proper care of the Political & Religious sentiments. They took permission from the Vatican and other religious institutions for release of the drug before the launch.

Make Treating Doctors talk about ED: The promotion focussed on connecting Diabetes & Heart ailment with the ED so that Physicians start discussing ED with patients & made them aware of the condition. Also, the promotions went beyond the effects of Drug on sex lives & highlighted the issues of Depression & Emotional well-being. These strategies seem to have hit the bulls-eye & sales rocketed sky high in a short span.

Influencer Marketing by using credible celebrity talk about the Product:

Bob doleBob Dole, who was a credible, decorated American & US presidential candidate too, endorsed Viagra. . Bob commented “It’s a little embarrassing to talk about ED, but it’s so important to millions of men and their partners that I decided to talk about it publicly.”

 

 

pelePele, the Brazilian football legend was signed up by US firm Pfizer to promote the anti-impotence awareness campaign. Pele commented “I hope that my personal commitment to this campaign will help to motivate men to seek medical help. If I suffered from ED (erectile dysfunction), I would speak with my doctor.”

Using the influential marketing  concept paid off. The sexual dysfunction condition called ED was discussed more seriously & the typical notion of “Ha, Ha” slowly weaned off.

New therapeutic category – Evolutionary which converted to Revolutionary:

Earlier called as Impotence & wrapped with a lot of stigma, the new term came as Erectile Dysfunction. The new term could bring the element of disease into it rather than being a stigmatized term connected with male masculinity. Slowly & gradually media came out of  hesitation mode & started taking about it. Viagra made an appearance on the cover of Time Magazine. So, the evolution was on the track but as a new market segment opened for pharma industry, more companies came into this therapeutic segment & made it a revolutionary phenomenon. Society became more open about ED ailment & millions of patients have been treated since then.

Marketing Folders replaced by Customized Publication: The marketing team of Viagra could think of different way of information dissemination. Apart from the folders with drug information, they used customized messages from credible public figures in publications which could deliver the message about drug as well as break the stigma related to the ailment.

Side effect profile: In May 1998, stories linking Viagra to a number of deaths were published. Pfizer responded by issuing a” Dear Doctor” letter through the FDA website, reiterating a point that when administered with organic nitrates the drug can result in large and sudden drops in blood pressure. In September 1998, six months after physician education and awareness development, began a consumer advertisement campaign was launched. The company initially advertised heavily in women’s magazines in order to promote treatment-seeking behavior. It can be considered as perfect example of unbiased & factual information related aspect of Risk mitigation plan.

Launch in India: When Pfizer launched Viagra in India, the competition was already established in this therapeutic segment. Not only this, it was cheaper than Viagra by 20 times. The Indian therapeutic version was available in the price range of Rs. 20 while Viagra was launched around Rs. 500/-. Also, the fake drugs wee being sold from online channels. One published information says that about 80%of the online purchases for Viagra like or Viagra claimed drugs are fake. Also, the misuse by youngsters for dating & partying purposes increased.

Issues: To break Stigma related to Erectile dysfunction, Fake/Spurious Drugs which eat market share, Branded vs Cheaper Generics of Viagra, Misuse of this Drug

Speak your Mind (In Comments Section):detective-1424831_1280

  1. While these scenarios were present in India, what all methods could Pfizer use to establish Viagra in Indian Market?
  2. Did the same strategies used in US  work in India Launch too?
  3. What are your suggestions in this type of scenario?

 

References:

https://www.livemint.com/Science/AMkZXMnVJzNvEbm9AHeuqN/Viagra-turns-20-Chronicle-of-a-global-success.html

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jul/11/from-viagra-to-valium-the-drugs-that-were-discovered-by-accident

https://www.iol.co.za/news/world/pele-rises-to-viagra-makers-challenge-83549

https://www.statista.com/statistics/264827/pfizers-worldwide-viagra-revenue-since-2003/

 

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