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Pfizer to sell Viagra online

Pfizer has taken the unusual step of selling its erectile dysfunction drug, Viagra, to consumers on its website, in an effort to establish a presence in the huge online market for the popular blue pill, considered to be one of the most counterfeited drugs in the world.

Viagra is one of Pfizer's marquee drugs — the company said it brought in more than $2 billion in sales in 2012 — but some drug experts estimate Pfizer could be losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year to a prolific black market of online pharmacies that cater to men too embarrassed to buy the drug through traditional means.

In an arrangement with CVS pharmacy, patients in the United States with a valid prescription for Viagra will be able to fill their order through the new website, where the sentence "Buy real Viagra" is featured prominently. Patients will still need to visit a doctor, but they will be spared the additional trip to the pharmacy counter.

If Pfizer's move is successful, more drugmakers could follow suit, especially for other products that treat conditions carrying social stigmas, such as weight loss. "This could be the prelude to a vast number of products" of medical importance being sold online, said Roger Bate, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and an expert in counterfeit drugs.

But others cautioned against such predictions, saying that Viagra might be particularly well suited to online sales because of its powerful brand recognition and the widespread competition from counterfeiters.

Victor Clavelli, a marketing executive at Pfizer whose portfolio includes Viagra, said the drug appeared in about 24 million Internet searches a year, often in phrases like "buy Viagra" — well in excess of about 8 million Viagra prescriptions written in the United States last year, according to the research firm IMS Health. "A lot of those patients get diverted into an illegal counterfeit market," Clavelli said. "Our goal is to just make sure those patients actually get the real Viagra."

Pfizer to sell Viagra online 05/06/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 1:15am]

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