Cheap, Shy, or Just Misbehaving? PFE Sells Viagra Direct to Consumers

Richard

PFE announced direct to consumer sales of Viagra; orders placed on Viagra.com will require a legitimate US prescription, and will be filled by CVS

Viagra is a perennial favorite of drug counterfeiters. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) counts more than 10,000 online pharmacies dispensing to US customers but operating outside of state and/or federal regulatory compliance; more than 8,000 of these will either issue prescriptions or dispense prescription products without one. Thus patients too embarrassed to ask for a prescription, and/or those with off-label plans, can avoid physicians

Beyond being shy and/or misbehaving, men are cheap. Years ago when Levitra and Cialis ended Viagra’s ED monopoly, we asked men to ‘build’ an optimal ED drug by allocating 100 points among their preferred drug attributes, with more points given to the more important features. Men gave as many points to low price as to speed of onset, and twice as many points to low price as to duration of effect. Price matters – a lot

The typical Viagra Rx is $160 – $190 at retail (6 to 7 pills at about $27 each). Viagra is not covered by Part D, so not many men over 65 have coverage. A little more than two-thirds of commercial plans cover ED treatments, but most require co-payments well above the prevailing tier-2 $30 for ‘preferred’ brands. Counterfeits are available for $1 to $3 / pill – cheaper than the best co-pay

For all of these reasons ‘online pharmacies’ will remain attractive to men who are cheap, shy, or misbehaving. PFE’s online service can only cater to men with legitimate prescriptions that are willing to pay either retail, or their applicable co-pay. Notably, most commercial drug benefits will not pay for drugs received by mail, unless the prescription is filled by the payor’s own mail order operation. Thus outside of CVS (who administers PFE’s program) there may be many men with drug benefits that cover Viagra, but that will not cover prescriptions sourced from Viagra.com

Thus on net, the marginal utility of Viagra.com is that it serves men who are: 1) sufficiently self-confident to talk to their doctors (and thus get legitimate US prescriptions); 2) willing to pay either retail or their share of retail; 3) if covered, belong to a commercial plan that will cover a mail Rx dispensed out of network; AND, either: 4) too shy to have the Rx filled at retail; and/or who prefer the convenience of Viagra.com over any mail alternative their plan may offer. The initiative makes total sense – but offers very little answer to men’s motives for buying counterfeits – so the counterfeits will continue

For our full research notes, please visit our published research site

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