With U.S. brand sales deflating, Pfizer gears up for over-the-counter Viagra in U.K.

Pfizer is getting ready to launch Viagra OTC in the U.K. this spring. (Wikipedia user Tim.Reckmann)

Pfizer is gearing up to launch its over-the-counter version of Viagra in the U.K. with its "largest ever" pharmacist training program there. 

Ahead of the spring rollout for Viagra Connect, approved by U.K. regulators in November, Pfizer is prepping pharmacists with online training, in-person sessions and regional meetings, the company said.

The move to nonprescription status in the U.K. could—in some small way—offset the expected decline in Viagra sales in the U.S. now that copycat versions are available. Generic versions of the little blue pill hit store shelves in December, threatening the product's $1.15 billion in U.S. revenue from 2016. Last year, U.S. sales slipped 31% to $789 million.

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Why are pharmacists so important to the U.K.'s over-the-counter launch? A key condition of the approval was that men seeking to purchase Viagra Connect must first talk with their pharmacists to determine whether the drug is appropriate for them. 

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Pfizer's training program includes a website where pharmacists can learn more and info for pharmacy assistants as well, the company said. 

The OTC rollout this spring follows a previous attempt to reclassify the drug nearly a decade ago. Pfizer withdrew a 2008 application because of concerns from the European Medicines Agency.  

Last March, Pfizer reapplied for OTC status and won the regulatory blessing in November. At the time of that approval, a Pfizer spokesperson said the company had no new information about a possible switch in the U.S. 

Pfizer's OTC push in the U.K. comes shortly after Viagra faced U.S. generic competition for the first time, representing a threat to a reliable revenue stream for the New York drugmaker. Viagra generated $1.2 billion in global sales in 2017, a 22% decline from the prior year. 

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