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Pfizer wants you to buy Viagra online -- from Pfizer

A doctor shows the anti-impotence drug Viagra at a hospital in Shanghai.

Pfizer wants you to buy more Viagra. In a first for the pharmaceutical industry, the drug maker says it will sell its erectile dysfunction medicine directly to patients from the company website.

Why, you might ask is Pfizer doing this?

Well, it needs to boost its own... performance.

Sales performance, that is. Really does anyone want to stride up to the pharmacy and fill their Viagra prescription? No.

But Pfizer’s decision isn’t as much about protecting a guy’s pride as it’s about protecting profits and fending off rivals.

“Certainly Cialis is eating into shares, especially among the people who sit in bathtubs,” says Les Funtleyder, a health care analyst with the investment firm Poliwogg.

Viagra’s annual sales are $2 billion, a little less than half the erectile dysfunction market it created and once dominated.  

Funtleyder says Pfizer’s not just fighting Cialis here, there’s also the knockoffs. “The other thing is you have seen significant counterfeiting.”

We’ve all gotten the crazy emails.

Subject: Say, I can have sex all night long.

Message: Just buy must have medication called Viagra. Cheapest prices, instant shipping worldwide. Secure purchases here.

Pharmaceutical analyst Rick Edmunds with Booz & Company says the move should help Pfizer distance itself from the counterfeiting and brush up its image at the same time.

“It’s got an implication well beyond just lost sales. It’s got an implication around how the public views the effectiveness of product,” he says.

Edmunds says it’s too soon to know whether this will prop up Pfizer’s sales.

But to sweeten the deal, the drug maker -- stealing a page from the online knockoffs -- promises 30 percent off your second order.

About the author

Dan Gorenstein is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Health Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @dmgorenstein.
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