CVS Drops Viagra, And Nobody Seems To Know Why

Pfizer Inc.'s famed erectile dysfunction medication Viagra is getting dropped by CVS. Expect a rise out of quite a few men for all the wrong reasons thanks to that news.The decision to nix coverage of the popular blue pill was first reported by Bloomberg, and later confirmed by CNBC.

The CVS Health Corp. list, or formulary, features drugs that will receive insurance benefits through 2016. Although Pfizer Inc.'s famous blue pill got the boot, it certainly wasn't alone. CNBC reported that 26 different medications will be dropped next year. CVS said it would send out additional information to insurers and affected customers in the fall.

CVS is tight-lipped about why it dropped Viagra, raising suspicion that some "shenanigans" may have occurred. Though initially known as a retail chain, things have changed. Since it acquired Caremark in 2007, it holds considerable sway over insured medication. The acquisition put CVS in control of the country's second largest manager of pharmaceutical benefits on behalf of U.S. insurers and employers. The company's decisions about drugs like Viagra affect millions of customers each year.

Pharmacy benefit managers are known to have negotiations with companies where their products are offered exclusively. In exchange for exclusivity, a business like CVS would enjoy lower pricing on products they carry. And those drug makers that didn't offer a better deal? Completely shut out.

Interestingly, a major competitor of Pfizer's was spared a place on the chopping block. According to Bloomberg, Eli Lilly & Co.'s Cialis is available for men with ED in place of Viagra. Eli Lilly & Co. spokesperson Scott MacGregor refused to comment on any alleged deals with CVS, as the company never discusses "specifics" about deals with payers. All he would say is that millions of men trust Cialis to cope with erectile dysfunction.

The latter sentiment was echoed by Pfizer spokesman Steve Danehy. Danehy told Bloomberg in an email that Viagra "continues to be available to millions of patients in the marketplace" despite the CVS announcement.

"Pfizer is committed to ensuring patient access to our medicines."
The spokesman declined to comment as to how this change will affect the many men who rely on Viagra to treat their sexual performance issues.

Although dropped by CVS/Caremark, Viagra is still covered through Express Scripts Holding Co. Viagra will also continue to be carried by CVS, despite the lack of insurance benefits. Men who want it will just have to pay out of pocket.

In a couple of years, the makers of these medications will face significant competition of a new kind. Generic versions of erectile dysfunction drugs are expected to hit the market by 2017.

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