The History of Viagra

Sildenafil citrate Sildenafil citrate is a drug that's sold under brand names of Viagra and Revatio, and is primarily used to treat Erectile Dysfunction (ED), although it is also prescribed for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PHA). Slightly more than 15 years ago (1998), the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved the little blue pill (Viagra) for the treatment of ED. But that was actually never it's intended use!

When the British scientists Dr. Peter Dunn and and Dr. Albert Wood, who were then employed by the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, created Sildenafil citrate (the key ingredient in Viagra), they believed it was instrumental in treating heart conditions like Angina, as well as high blood pressure. The 1991 British patent documents for Sildenafil citrate actually refer to it as a "heart medication".

Throughout the early 1990's, Pfizer conducted several trials of the drug, but had no success confirming its effect on treating heart disease. However, male volunteers who participated in the clinical trials started to notice some unusual (and rather unintended) behavior. They increasingly reported having erections within several days of taking Sildenafil citrate.

Viagra manufactureIn parallel, while Pfizer was conducting its trials, there were other (unrelated to heart disease) studies being carried out that shed some more light on the biochemical aspect of the erection process. The results of those studies provided greater insight into how Sildenafil citrate might be used to enhance male sexual stimulation by increasing blood flow to the penis.

With relatively disappointing results from Sildenafil citrate's heart disease trials, the scientists switched their focus to using the drug to treat patients with ED. Their hopes were now pinned on the apparent "side effects" reported by earlier trial volunteers.

The history of Viagra is peppered with unbelievable events. In 1996, Pfizer patented Sildenafil citrate, under the brand name Viagra, which then lead to the 1998 FDA approval of the drug for ED. The drug received its most powerful endorsements shortly thereafter, when former US presidential nominee Bob Dole, and famed television personality Larry King, both admitted to be using Viagra.

Viagra was also featured in famed TV series Sex and the City in 1999, while the Washington Post reported a year earlier that the CIA used it covertly to "win friends" with the Taliban. Famous (and controversial) radio personality Rush Limbaugh also figured prominently in creating a bit of Viagra history when he was arrested with a bottle of it a Florida airport. The problem: the name on the bottle did not match his!

With over 8 million prescriptions written for Viagra in 2012, the drug has contributed over $2 billion to Pfizer's sales revenue. Currently, it is the most popularly prescribed drug for treating ED, and controls nearly 45% of the market in the sexual dysfunction treatment space.

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