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As Viagra Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary, How Did Russia Deal With The Groundbreaking Drug?

As Viagra Goes Generic, How Did Russia Deal With The Groundbreaking Drug?
Image by Золоторёв Павел
Eastern European sex museum

As the little blue pill known as Viagra passes a milestone and celebrates its 20th anniversary, it’s worth remembering that when the pill hit Eastern Europe, it became an instant bestseller on the black market. Russia was in the thick of the gangster pre-Putin 1990s at that point and Viagra quickly became a way for criminals to get rich selling counterfeit drugs.

In the West, the marketing roll out had been especially worrisome to the Pfizer team that created it.

Rooney Nelson, born and raised in Jamaica, beat all the odds as the marketing genius behind the success of the little blue pill, Viagra, for male erectile disfunction. As the drugs hits its twenty year anniversary, the fascinating story behind its astounding success if finally being told. Rooney reminisces about his first days at Pfizer, when employees wouldn’t leave their cubicles without putting on a suit jacket. “It was not a hip kind of place,” he says with a laugh, wrote Esquire. It took a while for the management at Pfizer to get behind the concept.

There were no such problem creating demand for the drug in Russia and its ‘near abroad’.

BBC wrote in 1998 that the Russian Health Ministry quickly legalized Viagra because the drug had quickly become the number one drug on the black market in the Russian Federation.

Ramil Khabriyev, the head of the Health Ministry’s Medicinal Supervisory Directorate, said there was “an almost 100%” chance that customers were not buying the real thing. Mr Khabriyev denied that legalisation had been rushed through to meet the demands of members of the Russian leadership, wrote BBC.

“Everything’s fine with the government, we’ve had no instructions from above to obtain Viagra or get it legalised quickly.

“I don’t think our leaders need the stuff, touch wood,” he said.

Even before the patent expired, Pfizer had to sue Russian drug giant Teva to stop selling its knock-off brand inside the country.

“Pfizer says that Teva, a pharmaceutical company, is violating a patent, valid until 2014, that Pfizer holds to sell sildenafil-based medicines for treating erectile dysfunction. A spokesman for Pfizer said Teva was already importing and selling its treatments on the Russian market, and the company said it would “take all necessary measures” to protect its brand,” reported The Independent.

Even the medical term for the impotence problem had to be developed. Rooney and his team came up with a solution. “Impotence makes you feel like you did it to yourself,” as Nelson puts it. “Erectile dysfunction feels like it’s happening to you.”

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2 comments

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Philip D Larson May 19, 2019 at 4:15 pm

The “Russian drug giant Teva” is actually an Israeli company.

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Staff May 19, 2019 at 4:17 pm

Thank you – must be their Russian subsidiary

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