Pfizer to Sell Viagra to Patients Online, Among the First to Sell Directly to Consumers

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer recently started selling its blockbuster drug Viagra directly to patients with prescriptions through its website.

Patients within the United States can now purchase the drug directly from the manufacturer rather than taking prescriptions online to pharmacy counters, something that can be a sensitive issue for some men.

The reason Pfizer cites for this step is the continued threat of rogue online pharmacies that sell counterfeit Viagra. Counterfeit versions of Viagra are almost indistinguishable from real Viagra by sight alone, and often contain inactive or harmful ingredients. Rarely do these counterfeits contain adequate amounts of Viagra’s active ingredient, sildenafil citrate.

Pfizer Is Not the First

Though Pfizer’s recent action put the company in the headlines, it is not the first drug company to sell directly to patients. In 2012, AstraZeneca launched a direct-to-patient sales program for the breast cancer drug Arimidex. The program, titled “Arimidex Direct” is a partnership with pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts, and offers one-month supplies of the drug for $40. Before Arimidex went off-patent in 2010, a month’s supply was $450. While the drop in price has been significant, AstraZeneca hopes the direct-to-patient sales will keep patients from using generics from competing manufacturers, like Mylan.

Pfizer Will Likely Not Be the Last

If Pfizer’s direct-to-patient sales program proves successful, it could prompt other manufacturers of drugs that patients are uneasy about buying in public to sell directly to patients over the internet. Drugs most likely to be brought into direct-to-patient sales are other erectile dysfunction drugs, weight loss drugs, and drugs for hair loss. Manufacturers of drugs going off-patent may find that direct-to-patient sales can stem losses after big price drops, as AstraZeneca did with Arimidex. 

Buying Viagra Directly from Pfizer

Pfizer is currently sweetening its direct-to-patients Viagra deal by rewarding buyers of its $25-per-pill product with three free pills on the first order. Second orders receive a 30% discount. Pfizer isn’t saying how long this offer will last or whether third and subsequent orders will be eligible for discounts, but Pfizer is more worried about rogue manufacturers diluting the brand’s quality than having the best prices. Richard Evans, drug industry analyst with SSR Health, recently told NPR, “You’re always going to get a better offer from someone other than Pfizer. The question is whether it’s legitimate or not.”

Buying Viagra from AccessRx is an online medical facilitator that dispenses Viagra and other brand name drugs by prescription. Because AccessRx charges the same for Viagra in its 100 mg dosage as for the 50 mg dosage, most men find that the most cost-effective way to purchase Viagra is in 100 mg tablets which can then be split with a pill splitter. Men have been doing this for years with 100 mg Viagra tablets purchased from bricks-and-mortar pharmacies, but by purchasing from AccessRx they maintain a greater level of privacy when obtaining Viagra.

The Bottom Line: Patient Safety

Not only does Pfizer lose money to Viagra counterfeiters, they suffer from collateral damage to the brand when men unknowingly purchase fake Viagra and think that Pfizer is cheating them with an ineffective product. But foremost among Pfizer’s concerns (and the concerns of other providers of genuine Pfizer Viagra like AccessRx) is patient safety. 

Counterfeit Viagra has been found to contain potentially harmful ingredients like paint, ink, and the material wallboard is made from. Pfizer hopes that by selling directly to patients, they can allay anxiety about handing over a Viagra prescription to a pharmacist and better protect patient safety — a strategy that AccessRx has used successfully for over 15 years.







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