Pfizer's Viagra faces more counterfeit, generic attacks

Poor Viagra is facing one battle after another. The popularity of the drug may well have catapulted it into the ranks of most troublesome blockbusters--both for counterfeiting and generic competition.

For example, Nita and Harshad Patel recently pleaded guilty to selling counterfeits of the erectile dysfunction pill. Nina had provided an undercover agent with a price list for her "generic Viagra."

The Patels are not true brand loyalists, however. Among their other "generics" are Cialis and Levitra (as well as drugs for other conditions), all made in India and sold online. In all, the Patels sold agents fake tablets having a wholesale value (if legit) of about $2.5 million.

But Viagra's problems are not confined to the U.S. In Toronto, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police seized hundreds of thousands of counterfeit Viagra pills. Abrahaam Benmoise was charged with possession of property obtained by crime in the ongoing investigation. He's no Viagra loyalist either; the Mounties seized Cialis fakes, as well as designer clothing knockoffs.

Both cases show that the former bastions of drug authenticity are under attack. And the incessant attacks in developing countries continue, of course, as well as in harder-to-find areas. In Saipan, the largest island of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the government is detaining Cai Xia Xu, a suspected Viagra fakes supplier arrested last week. The court deemed the Chinese national a flight risk and turned her over to U.S. Marshals.

But Pfizer is not one to sit idly by while its popular med is under attack. The drug giant is using civil suits to go after tormentors, gaining both the means for direct involvement in investigations and a respectable return on its fakes-fighting investment. Its $3.3 million in investigations and legal fees since 2007 has yielded about $5.1 million in damage awards.

And it's fighting for the brand on the generics front too. In New Zealand, where the Viagra patent expires in June, Pfizer hits the market first with a generic version dubbed Avigra. The anagram version is expected to sell at half the price.

- see the Patel story
- see the Toronto item
- here's Cai Xia Xu's tale
- see the generics story

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