What does the end of the Viagra patent in the UK mean?

Viagra was originally discovered by the company Pfizer in their laboratories in Kent in the United Kingdom. But after fifteen years of huge sales, Pfizer’s patent on the drug ended in the UK in June 2013. This makes little difference for patients in the USA, where the patent is set to continue until 2019. But what does it mean in the UK, and what will it mean in other countries when their patents end?

Prices and market share

The most obvious impact will be a drop in prices. At the time of the patent ending, commentators predicted a drop from £10 per pill to less than £1 for patients looking to buy Viagra or generic equivalents, read more here. This price drop is also expected to increase the market, as more people will be able to afford the pills.

Pfizer profits

Of course, this will have an impact on Pfizer, who up until now held a monopoly on their product in the UK. Pfizer’srevenue from the little blue pill is estimated at around $2 billion per year, and the UK provides a decent chunk of that money.

Will this spell disaster for the company? It’s unlikely. They’re a huge producer of all sorts of pharmaceuticals, not tied to one product. They were around and profiting before launching the modern erectile dysfunction pill industry, and they’ll survive this setback. Their fame might shrink a little, but their accounts won’t.

The black market

The businesses most likely to suffer are the black market ones from which some UK customer buy Viagra online. Hundreds of these websites have been shut down, and over 68,000 illegal pills confiscated from them in 2012 alone. But with legal prices dropping, far fewer people will come to them in search of discount drugs. Many of these operations will wither away.

A time to celebrate

The opportunity to buy cheap Viagra is doubtless being celebrated all over the UK, though mostly in private, well behind closed doors. But for all that Pfizer have taken a lot of money out of patients’ pockets, it’s worth celebrating the good they’ve done too.

Before them and their fierce marketing campaigns, erectile dysfunction was a hugely taboo subject, a source of embarrassment and shame. Now it’s a topic of regular discussion across the media. Such a healthy attitude to a common health problem is a good thing.

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