It’s the drug that raised the profile of medicine in popular culture. It’s been hawked by a prominent politician and has been the butt of jokes on late-night TV. It’s Viagra, and it’s turning 10 today.
Pfizer‘s Viagra reshaped pharmaceutical marketing in several ways. The company used direct-to-consumer advertising to great effect, and changed the game of DTC by advertising the drug not only in late at night broadcast outlets.
More broadly, the marketing of Viagra bolstered the trend of medicalization of everyday life.
Viagra’s origin as sildenafil citrate was targeted to cardiovascular medicine. Originally conceived as a heart drug for hypertension and angina, the molecule was, serendipitously, found to be useful in erectile dysfunction.
In 1998, three scientists who studied the dynamics of nitric oxide, the secret sauce in Viagra, won the Nobel Prize.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: One of the most informative primers on Viagra is this book from Meika Loe of Colgate University. In it, she observes that we are Viagra nation where, “our sexual status quo has shifted dramatically.” Ten years after Viagra’s entry on the health scene, the search remains for a “pink viagra,” a version for women. No one can deny the game-changing role that Viagra has played in American health care and in popular culture.