Health

UK: Viagra ‘Price Drop’ As Drug Patent Expires

 The cost of Viagra could drop dramatically from Saturday as the UK patent for the drug expires.

The male erectile dysfunction drug, manufactured by American firm Pfizer in Ireland, must now compete against dozens of generic competitors.

There are some 120 alternative versions made worldwide, with some costing as little as 85p per pill.

Sky News understands that Pfizer will release its cheaper, generic 'white diamond' version on June 22. It will also continue to sell the original version.

In the UK it has been available as prescription-only medicine since 1999, and nicknamed by company employees as the 'Pfizer Riser'.

Unwittingly, it has also spurred billions of unsolicited spam emails, as online entrepreneurs tried to cash in on perceived embarrassment surrounding asking the doctor for the little blue pill.

The new price drop has the potential to save the NHS millions in prescription costs.

The Health & Social Care Information Centre told Sky News that in 2011-12 there were 1.28 million Viagra prescriptions dispensed across the country.

The 'net ingredient cost' was £39.8m, which includes the cost of the drug before any discounts. It also excludes any dispensing costs or fees.

According to Pfizer sources, Viagra has been a bigger name in the public's consciousness than in the company's rota of top drugs.

Sildenafil citrate, the pharmaceutical name for Viagra, has been produced by the firm in twice-annual production runs at facilities at Ringaskiddy in Cork.

It is then sent to warehousing facilities in Belgium, prior to regional despatch.

Pfizer is expected to continue producing the drug while simultaneously developing a second generation medicine that can be packaged in a smaller pill.

The company previously took bold advertising steps to market the drug, including sponsorship of race cars and using veteran Brazilian football player Pele as a spokesman.

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