Generic Viagra Hits U.S. Market: Price Of Popular ED Drug May Drop 90 Percent After New ‘Little White Pill’

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Almost 20 years after Viagra was first approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, a legal, generic version of the revolutionary erectile dysfunction medication will hit U.S. drugstores on Monday, December 11. And unlike many generic drugs, the new generic Viagra — marketed as a “little white pill” rather than the familiar blue version — is manufactured by the same pharmaceutical giant that created and still makes the original.

Pfizer, which has manufactured and sold the prescription “little blue pill” since March of 1998, will go into competition with itself, selling its new white pill under the drug’s technical name, sildenafil citrate, for a drastically reduced price of $32.50 for a 100 milligram pill, which users generally split in half to get two doses of the drug.

Non-generic Viagra currently retails for $65 per 100 milligram pill. But with Pfizer’s patent on Viagra now expiring and a steady stream of legal, generic versions expected to hit the market over the coming months, Pfizer is looking to get ahead of the competition before the increased supply causes generic Viagra prices to drop to as low as 90 percent of the original, according to the Associated Press.

Currently, only one pharmaceutical company other than Pfizer is approved by the FDA to manufacture and sell generic Viagra, but that company — the Israeli pharmaceutical firm, Teva — was blocked from issuing the drug in the U.S. until this month. Teva’s version of generic Viagra has not yet been released, and the company has not announced a price for its sildenafil citrate pills.

Generic Viagra Hits U.S. Market: Price Of Popular ED Drug May Drop 90 Percent After New 'Little White Pill'
The original version of Viagra manufactured by Pfizer (l), and the new, generic "little white pill" (r) released December 11.Featured image credit: Richard DrewAP Images

Viagra did about $1.6 billion in sales for Pfizer in 2016 alone, despite the fact that many insurance companies decline to provide coverage for erectile dysfunction drugs. But according to a Fortune Magazine article published this week, the expected influx of cheaper, generic versions will likely kill the Pfizer cash cow unless the company gets to the generic market first, which is the purpose of the half-price, white Viagra pill.

“This is the most comprehensive pricing and marketing response I’ve seen to a generic,” pharmaceutical marketing expert Erik Gordon of the University of Michigan said. “It’s unprecedented.”

While generic Viagra manufactured by competitors will likely be priced even lower than the $32.50 Pfizer version, the company is betting that its customers will prefer obtaining their erectile dysfunction medication from the original source, with a drastically reduced price tag.

In fact, according to Pfizer’s own market research, 20 percent of Viagra users are loyal to the brand, meaning they are likely to stick with a Pfizer-made version rather than a generic manufactured overseas.

Generic Viagra has been available in Europe for several years, and in March of 2018, the United Kingdom will become the first country in which Viagra can be purchased over the counter without a doctor’s prescription. Pfizer plans to market a product called Viagra Connect, which will sell in packets of four 50 milligram pills for just £19.99, or only about $25 in U.S. currency. That is, under Pfizer’s Viagra Connect program, U.K. customers will pay the equivalent of just $12.50 for 100 milligrams of the active Viagra ingredient.

That’s $20 cheaper than the generic U.S. Viagra, which will be released Monday and will be available only with a prescription.

Generic Viagra Hits U.S. Market: Price Of Popular ED Drug May Drop 90 Percent After New 'Little White Pill'
Generic Viagra in versions that are illegal in the cited States has long been available online, and in pharmacies in foreign countries such as Mexico.Featured image credit: Spencer PlattGetty Images

Generic Viagra has long been available in Mexican pharmacies, and online in the United States. But such unregulated drugs, illegal in the U.S., carry significant risks both to users’ health and to their bank accounts. The illegal generic Viagra, often manufactured in countries with lax oversight such as India, Turkey, and Egypt, may contain harmful ingredients, or may simply be rip-offs, containing lower doses of sildenafil citrate than claimed on the label — if any at all.

But a generic version of a drug called Revatio has been available legally by prescription in the United States for several years. Also manufactured by Pfizer, Revatio is simply a different brand name for sildenafil citrate, but in a lower dose of only 20 milligrams per pill. The drug is not prescribed for erectile dysfunction, but instead, for a life-threatening lung condition called pulmonary hypertension.

Otherwise, Revatio and Viagra are identical. However, the retail price of a generic version is only $2 per pill, meaning 100 milligrams would cost a user only $10 for 100 milligrams of the drug.