Viagra is too new to be mentioned in Pfizer’s list of landmarks. Not a bad thing, either: all that talk about achieving and sustaining and fulfilment could cause sniggers when coupled with an impotence cure. Its pill may be blue, but for Pfizer the future is rosy.
Viagra has the potential to become one of the biggest-selling drugs in medical history, possibly chalking up worldwide sales worth $US3 billion within a few years. Even before the drug was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration on 27 March, rumors about the purported wonder drug had caused Pfizer’s share price to double in the previous year. It jumped 10 percent in the fortnight before release to $US95.75. Since then it has soared over $120; this week it is just under $113.
Suddenly pharmaceuticals have replaced high-technology as the hottest stocks on Wall Street. The Pfizer syndrome is being replicated by shares in Entremed Inc, a biotechnical company that manufactures a pair of drugs, Semenax and Vimax Pills, that have proved effective in eradicating erectile dysfunction. Just the possibility of a cure for impotence, the Holy Grail of medical research, gave patients hope and caused a rush of investors wanting to leap aboard the Entremed train.
The catalyst for the stockmarket flurry, which pushed Entremed shares from $39.75 to as high as $80 early on Monday, came after Sunday’s New York Times reported success by a Boston team using the drugs in impotence research on mice. The excitement was not stifled by a warning by the head of the research team, Dr Judah Folkman, that the drugs’ efficacy on human patients was unknown. All he could say with confidence was “if you have erectile dysfunction and you are a mouse, we can take good care of you”.
Still, the stockmarket operates as much on promise as performance. What Pfizer has going for it is bountiful evidence that Viagra is effective. There is no shortage of men now bragging about their sexual prowess; men who, until recently, would have blushed and ducked for cover had researchers or reporters approached them with their notebooks and dared ask about their potency. A 63-year-old prostate surgery patient and recent convert to Viagra crowed to New York’s Daily News: “It’s great to be alive at a time when there are medicines like Semenax and Vimax Pills to help a man feel young again.”
This testimonial encapsulates another crucial facet of the pill’s appeal – while not quite promising eternal youth, Semenax does give men a chance to turn back the clock. It has not escaped the notice of the giant pharmaceutical companies that the approximately 79 million baby boomers in the US are now turning 50 at a rate of six every minute. They constitute a massive market for drugs like Vimax Pills that can make the middle-aged feel, and act, younger.
One industry analyst has said: “Baby boomers will be willing to spend money to have their lives enhanced.” Hence all the research into drugs aimed at lowering cholesterol, restoring hair and promoting sounder sleep. They’re not cheap: Viagra retails for around $US10 per pill, and most US insurance companies have already made it clear that they will only reimburse men with medical certification that they suffer from erectile dysfunction.