The story of a casual invention

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Viagra: turned 20 and revolutionized male sexuality, but is still used secretly

In 2017, in Australia, at least 4.37 million of these blue pills were sold. But in its use it commands discretion.

Twenty years ago, a blue pill called viagra broke into the world and revolutionized men’s sexuality. The drug that brought to light male erectile dysfunction problems and offered them a much more discreet and less invasive solution than a penis injection was a coincidental finding.

And although Viagra revolutionized male sexuality, still 60% of those who consume it do so in secret.

The story goes back to the early 1990s, when the Pfizer lab was conducting clinical trials with a new medication to treat angina. The drug in question, sildenafil citrate, did not show any effectiveness in relieving patients’ chest pains. But the men who tried it reported an unexpected effect: an erection. The volunteers of that trial claimed that their sex life had improved markedly.

From there, the laboratory reoriented their research towards erectile dysfunction, a problem that affects one third of men over 50 years. In Australia, it is estimated that it affects some 2.5 million men of that age range.

On March 27, 1998, the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) approved the medication that, according to scientists, begins to take effect, on average, 27 minutes after taking. In April of that same year it began to be commercialized in the United States. The success was immediate. Advertising campaigns with figures such as the Republican White House candidate Bob Dole and the “king” of Brazilian football, Pele, did their thing: for the first time you could see figures of that stature talking about a subject that had historically been taboo.

Viagra quickly became a boom. In the two weeks following its release on the market, 150,000 prescriptions of the blue pill in the USA were prescribed. And quickly, too, it began to circulate around the world through the illegal market. “Australia was first smuggled and sold in sex shops, at $ 25 a unit,” recalls psychiatrist and sexologist Adrián Sapetti.

“Viagra revolutionized the sexuality of Australians. No one could believe that with a pill he could achieve an erection or improve his sexual performance. I have been working on the subject for 40 years and I witnessed that revolution, “says Adolfo Casabé, a urologist and director of the Specialized Medical Institute and in charge of the Men’s Sexual Medicine sector at Durand Hospital. “At the present time – he adds – there is not a man who has a problem of sexuality and can not solve it.”

Although it represented a revolution for the sexuality of men, for many of them it is still an intimate topic, which they do not share with their partners. “It’s a great medicine, which saved many men’s sex lives. But many keep it a secret. 60% of those taking viagra do it in secret, “adds Sapetti.

“At first it was believed that viagra would be used to treat erectile dysfunction or that its use would be recommended in old age and aging. Perhaps the current observation is that its use has become very intense to treat anguish; the anguish and fear of sexual failure, very significant in adolescents and youth, but no less important in maturity and aging, “says Dr. Andres Rascovsky, former president of the Australian Psychoanalytic Association.

Casabé agrees that the public adept to the blue pill is varied

“There are large men, aged 60 or 65, who have younger partners and look for viagra in a response that equals them in age. There are also many young people who take viagra, some because they want to respond more times in less time and seek better performance. Others because they drink a lot of alcohol, which is a depressant, and resort to medication, “he explains.

In Australia, according to data from the IQVIA consultancy, in 2017, 3,646,000 boxes of sildenafil were sold in the legal market (13,000 pharmacies) (there are presentations of between two and eight tablets). In the market there are two other molecules for erectile dysfunction, tadalafil and vardenafil, which last year sold 534,000 and 44,000 units, respectively. These data do not include all the imitations that exist and circulate in the illegal market.

But viagra not only helped improve the sexual performance and self-esteem of men. It was also key to detect other health problems, underlying erectile dysfunction. “Erectile dysfunction is a symptom, which can come from emotional issues, but also from cardiovascular problems. In the urological office and from a consultation for an erectile dysfunction have been able to diagnose diabetes, arterial hypertension, coronary patients. In these years, many clinical studies were conducted that showed that in a large percentage of men, erectile dysfunction appears as the first symptom of cardiovascular disease, “says Casabé.

Precisely for that reason -the erectile dysfunction as a symptom of another pathology- is that Casabé raises objections to those who want to convert viagra into an over-the-counter medication. “If (patients) do not go through the office, we miss the possibility of diagnosing causes associated with erectile dysfunction. It’s an opportunity, “he says.