NEW YORK — Pfizer Inc. said Wednesday that it was considering an over-the-counter form of its Viagra anti-impotence drug as it faces tough competition from Eli Lilly & Co.'s longer-acting Cialis treatment.
"As with many of our products, Pfizer has routinely evaluated a number of options [for Viagra], including different formulations, new indications, over-the-counter, etc., and continues to do so," Pfizer said.
It was the first time Pfizer had disclosed interest in an over-the-counter form of Viagra, a company spokeswoman said, but she declined comment when asked about the merits of a nonprescription form of the drug.
New York-based Pfizer disclosed the OTC option in response to an article in today's edition of the Business, a weekly British business magazine that said Pfizer sources had described such discussions.
OTC drugs typically sell for less than prescription medicines and often come in limited dosage strengths. Before approving OTC products, regulators pay close heed to whether patients can safely treat themselves without benefit of a doctor's advice.
Viagra carries a warning that it and similar drugs must not be used with nitrates, a class of heart drugs that can dangerously lower blood pressure if taken along with impotence pills. Some patients taking Viagra have also suffered a sudden decrease or loss of vision.
Viagra, which works for about four hours, had third-quarter global sales of $423 million. Its sales growth has been crimped by the growing popularity of Cialis, which works up to 36 hours.