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Why Are Men’s Health Drugs So Expensive?

August 20, 2020

high drug prices

According to statistics, more than 30 million men in the United States suffer from ED (erectile dysfunction). ED is typically associated with the aging process, but in reality, it also affects younger men and does not necessarily have to be associated with aging. ED drugs like Viagra and Cialis are commonly prescribed for men experiencing ED, but like so many prescription drugs in the United States, men's health drugs can be prohibitively expensive.

The pharmaceutical industry in the United States has a long and never-ending laundry list of reasons as to why prescription drugs are so expensive for Americans — and getting more and more unaffordable every year.

However most (if not all) of the excuses just don't hold up to scrutiny, especially when compared to how so many of the same medications are priced in other developed countries such as Canada, where consumers pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars less than their American counterparts for the same prescriptions.

What American Men Pay for Viagra and Cialis

When it first hit the market a little over 20 years ago, Viagra was hailed as a breakthrough and watershed moment in the treatment and management of ED. According to industry data, more than $400 million dollars and 300,000 prescriptions of Viagra were sold in the United States alone within months of its release in 1998. Since then, Viagra has been prescribed to over 65 million men. However, unlike many prescription drugs that were once reasonably priced and affordable but have suddenly spiked in recent years, Viagra has never been cheap.

The “little blue pill” as it euphemistically became known, costs around $70/pill and wasn't covered by insurance, instantly making it unaffordable for millions of American men. (Adjusted for inflation, $70 in 1998 amounts to $111 today, though the inflation rate in the United States has nearly doubled, from 1.56% in 1998 to 2.33% in 2020).

Like many prescription medications in the U.S., there was no generic alternative for Viagra available to lower the cost for consumers. In fact, American men had to wait over 20 years for sildenafil (the generic version of Viagra) to hit the market. The average retail price for Viagra is over $1,000 in the U.S., while sildenafil prices are dramatically lower and range from under $100 to several hundred dollars per prescription, depending on the strength and number of pills in the prescription.

Cialis, another popular ED drug, typically costs over $400 or more out of pocket per month. Though cheaper, the retail price for the generic version tadalafil is still around $300 for a 30-tablet supply. While generic versions of an expensive brand name medication generally help to bring the prices down and make them more affordable and accessible to more people, that hasn't necessarily been the case with men's health and ED drugs like Cialis and Viagra.

Why are Such Popular and Widely Prescribed Medications Still so Expensive?

In general, less-prescribed medications for rare conditions tend to be the most expensive, but that isn't always the case in the United States. Pharmaceutical giant Novartis charges over $2 million for drugs like Zolgensma, a type of gene therapy for a rare and often fatal childhood genetic disorder.

One of the most infamous examples of pharmaceutical industry greed and price gouging in the United States in recent years centered around "pharma bro" Martin Shkreli, whose company jacked up the price of Daraprim from $13.50 to over $700 per pill. While Shkreli was ultimately convicted and sentenced to several years in prison for financial crimes, the price of Daraprim remains prohibitively high, with an average list price of $45,000 for a one-month supply of 60 tablets.

While some of the most expensive drugs in the United States are for rare conditions and only taken for a short period of time, the pharmaceutical industry continues to routinely spike the prices of common medications that millions of Americans rely on, often for the long term.

Erectile Dysfunction Medications Hit with Highest Price Hikes in the Industry

On the other end of the spectrum of drugs like Daraprim are Viagra and Cialis, which are among the most widely prescribed medications, and have been on the market for decades. So why does Viagra still cost almost as much as it did back in 1998 when it was first released? For starters, there was no generic alternative available in the United States for 20 years.

The patent system works in such a way that powerful pharmaceutical companies can wield the power of their patents to effectively insulate themselves from competition, even when that competition comes in the form of more affordable medications that can improve quality of life and even save lives in many cases.

There are several factors that contribute to sky high prescription drug prices in America, but the biggest factor is arguably unrestricted price hikes on some of the most common and widely prescribed medications in the country.

As an unspoken rule, pharmaceutical companies automatically raise prescription drug prices across the board on hundreds of medications every year. While recent political scrutiny and public outcry over out of control drug costs has put industry executives on high alert, it hasn't stopped them from moving ahead with price increases in the first quarter of 2020.

According to a study, Viagra and Cialis have been among the prescription drugs to experience the steepest and most consistent price hikes over the last decade. The prices for both Viagra and Cialis increased by almost 200% in that period.

As the researchers from the study pointed out, there were no significant correlations or distinctions between the price hikes and the medication's time on the market or the availability of a generic version. More often than not, the pharmaceutical companies enact across the board price hikes with little to no justifications in regard to the specific drugs.

Myths and Misconceptions Used to Justify Price Hikes for Prescription Medications Like Viagra

Most Americans are probably familiar with many of the excuses and justifications used by the pharmaceutical companies to justify raising prices on already overpriced medications like those used to treat ED.

One of the most common arguments that pharmaceutical company executives love to cite is research and development costs. While research and development can account for as much as 17% of a pharmaceutical company's budget on average, what many Americans don't realize is that many of the "privately owned and developed" drugs on the market were actually developed through joint research and grants from the U.S. government — specifically U.S. taxpayers.

Despite being at least partially funded by taxpayer dollars, big pharma giants are then granted exclusive patents that guarantees them a virtual monopoly on the drug, which can last for 20 years or longer as in the case of Viagra and many other drugs. Making slight adjustments or variations to the drug — without drastically altering or changing its core makeup or function — can often extend the life of the patent and delay a more affordable generic alternative even longer.

Additionally, many of the drugs that are subject to the highest and most consistent price hikes are older drugs that have been on the market for years or even decades, with little to no changes to the drug in that time frame — Viagra and Cialis being a prime example.

Men's Health Medications are a Cash Cow for American Pharmaceutical Companies

One of the most ironic twists in prescription drug history is that sildenafil became the little blue pill that changed men's health and the world very much by accident. Not since Alexander Fleming's famous pile of dirty dishes led to the discovery of penicillin almost 100 years ago has a case of chemical serendipity had such a profound impact on the pharmaceutical industry and the world at large. Before it became Viagra, sildenafil was originally being studied to treat cardiovascular problems, specifically to suppress a particular protein in order to dilate blood vessels in the heart for better blood flow.

Except there was one small problem — the researchers and men participating in the clinical trials soon found that sildenafil had an unanticipated side effect — it was dilating the blood vessels responsible for achieving and maintaining an erection instead. (While Viagra is most famous — and profitable — as an ED medication, Pfizer continued to test its efficacy as a heart medication and currently sells a version to treat arterial pulmonary hypertension in both men and women. The drug is sold as Revatio).

Predictably, Viagra was an overnight success, and money maker, for Pfizer. Since its approval by the FDA, Pfizer has made billions of dollars from the same of Viagra alone. According to reports, the United States Military alone spends over $40 million on Viagra per year.

In fact, Viagra has been one of the fastest selling and widely prescribed prescription medications of all time, earning Pfizer over $2 billion in global sales per year by 2008, ten years after it hit the market. Viagra sales (and Pfizer's profits) predictably took a hit after its international and domestic patents expired over the last few years, opening the market for more affordable alternatives. However even generic sildenafil (which is not manufactured by Pfizer) is still not cheap when compared to what they cost when purchased from a Canadian pharmacy and many people prefer the brand version which is much more affordable internationally and from Canada.

ED Medication Users are Getting Younger

A common misconception around ED is that it only affects older men, but the reality is that men in their 30s and 40s can also experience sexual dysfunction and symptoms of ED. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sildenafil use skyrocketed among men aged 18 - 45 (over 300%) from 1998 - 2002, and younger men are now also using ED medications recreationally and to manage sexual anxiety or "performance issues."

When the demand exists, pharmaceutical executives in the United States will not resist the opportunity to continue to rake in more profits, especially in the face of competition and diminished market share from newly available generics.

How to Buy Cheap Viagra and Cialis in Canada

Given how long they've been on the market and how essential they've become to millions of men, Viagra and Cialis should be relatively cheap, or at least significantly cheaper than they are in the U.S. As has increasingly become the case, many men must turn to Canada if they want to find cheap Viagra and Cialis. By comparison, both Viagra (brand name) and sildenafil (generic) can be much cheaper in Canada.

Just like in the United States, Viagra and Cialis are among the most popular men's health drugs at NorthWestPharmacy.com. Yet in the United States, a 100mg pill of Viagra retails for approximately $75 or more, and Viagra is typically not covered by health insurance. (Generic prescriptions of sildenafil may be covered by some Medicare plans, but even the generic version in the United States can be twice as expensive as the brand name in Canada and internationally).

Buying men's health medications like Viagra and Cialis from an online Canadian pharmacy can save you money. For more information, contact us today by calling our toll free number 1-866-539-5330, or contact a member of our customer service team online to learn more. We offer free shipping specials on some products to help you save even more when ordering your prescriptions online through NorthWestPharmacy.com.

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