Viagra goes generic: Pfizer to launch own little white pill

Drugmaker Pfizer is launching its own cheaper generic version of Viagra rather than lose most sales when the impotence pill gets its first generic competition next week.

TRENTON, N.J. — The little blue pill that’s helped millions of men in the bedroom is turning white. Drugmaker Pfizer is launching its own cheaper generic version of Viagra rather than lose most sales when the impotence pill gets its first generic competition next week.

Pfizer will begin selling the white pill at half the $65-a-pill retail price on Monday, when its patent-protected monopoly ends. Generic maker Teva Pharmaceuticals can start selling its version then but isn’t disclosing the price.

Many more generics go on sale next summer, which will steadily slash the price of generics, possibly by 90 percent.

“Patients are paying fortunes. When generic Viagra comes out, they will be very happy,” said Dr. Nachum Katlowitz, a urologist at New York’s Staten Island University Hospital.

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Launched in 1998, Viagra was the first pill for impotence. It transformed a private frustration for many aging men into a publicly discussed medical condition with an easy treatment, far more appealing than options like penile injections and implants. Pfizer’s early TV ads for the little blue pill even coined the term erectile dysfunction, ED for short.

Eli Lilly’s Cialis — developed by Bothell-based Icos, which was later bought by Lilly — came out in 2003 and now dominates the U.S. market with on-demand pills and daily, low-dose ones. Viagra is a close second.

Pfizer says its market research shows 20 percent of customers are loyal to Viagra. So rather than give up sales to generic makers as brand-name drugmakers once routinely did, the company is selling its own generic and also fighting to keep men on its blue pills.

“We believe that the story for Viagra isn’t done. It’s just going to be a new chapter,” said Jim Sage, president of U.S. brands for Pfizer Essential Health, which sells its older medicines.

In January, the drugmaker will offer two new discount programs and increase its co-payment card discounts. Uninsured men can get brand-name Viagra half off through an innovative online home-delivery program, Pfizer Direct. Many insured patients will be able to get a month’s prescription — typically six to 10 pills, depending on plan limits — for as little as a $20…

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