Pfizer's first U.K. ads for OTC Viagra put erectile dysfunction in perspective

A newspaper ad from Pfizer Consumer Healthcare's first campaign for OTC Viagra Connect in the U.K. which debuted last week. (Pfizer UK)

Pfizer’s first ad campaign for over-the-counter Viagra in the U.K. uses comparisons to remind men just how commonplace erectile dysfunction is.

Print and out-of-home ads begin with the fact that “4.3 million men in the U.K. experience erectile problems.” The text-heavy ads printed on blue sky backgrounds then go on to note comparisons such as, “That’s more men than there are cabs in the whole of the U.K.” or “That’s enough men to fill every major British football stadium.”

The campaign began running last week as the OTC version of the drug, Viagra Connect, hit shelves in British pharmacies.

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The ads come on the heels of Pfizer’s broad and ongoing effort to educate pharmacists. The pharmacy program is Pfizer Consumer Healthcare’s largest training and education rollout to date in the U.K., Paul Rose, general manager, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare U.K., said in an email interview.

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The program uses e-learning, face-to-face training and regional meetings supported by advertising and media articles meant to reach every pharmacist in the U.K. The digital training includes videos, interactive content and printable resources meant to help pharmacists with assessments, potential patient scenarios and support in managing conversations about erectile dysfunction, he said. There is also specific content designed for pharmacy assistants who would likely be the first point of contact for men seeking help. Since March, regional meetings have reached more than 500 pharmacy team members, with postevent survey data finding a 125% increase in confidence in supplying the product among attendees.

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“Despite the common nature of the condition, new research has found that 44% of men aged 40 and over have not sought medical treatment for erectile problems,” Rose said. “ …We believe that the availability of Viagra Connect in pharmacies could help facilitate earlier presentation of these men to a pharmacist, who can then provide them with education and advice, not only on erectile dysfunction, but also on related general health issues and well-being.”

Pfizer worked with a WPP Health & Wellness team that included Y&R London, Wavemaker, Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Geometry UK and Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide for the Viagra OTC launch.

When asked about Pfizer’s plans, if any, for OTC Viagra in the U.S., Rose said, “We explore opportunities to expand access to medications by making them available as over-the-counter treatments when we believe there is potential to improve access and healthcare. It is our hope that other countries, beyond the U.K., will in the future see the value in providing nonprescription sildenafil as an OTC product for men. We have no further regulatory updates to provide at this time.”