ED drugmakers look to new formulations

When the patent cliff looms, what do makers of erectile dysfunction remedies turn to? Consumer psychology. As the New York Times reports, Pfizer and Bayer both are reformulating their blockbuster ED meds. They hope that easier-to-use, faster-acting or more discreet versions will keep men loyal to their brands, rather than turning to the cheap generics destined to hit the market over the next few years.

Pfizer recently started test-marketing chewable Viagra in Mexico with an eye toward selling it elsewhere. Studies had shown that Mexican men would grind up Viagra pills to make them easier to swallow--or in the hopes that it would work more quickly. If the new version--Viagra Jet--catches on in Mexico, then it may hold promise in other countries, especially in the developing world, a Pfizer spokeswoman told the paper. A Pfizer partner in Brazil plans to study a fast-acting version--but Pfizer isn't financing development.

Meanwhile, Bayer has been selling a fast-dissolving form of Levitra in eight European countries and the U.K., and the formulation recently won FDA approval under the name Staxyn. One selling point is that it's sold in a "pocket-friendly" black package. In addition, it can be taken discreetly; there is no pill to swallow. GlaxoSmithKline and Merck own U.S. rights to the formulation, and it's expected to hit pharmacies this month.

Whether these advantages will woo men away from ED pills, especially when they're available as generics, remains to be seen. "'Gimmick' is a strong word, but all of this is designed to create new brand identities," Dr. Joseph Alukal of New York University School of Medicine told the NYT. "A newer product, less expensive, and a new form of taking it--all that might convince more people to try it."

- read the NYT story