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Lilly's 'Le Weekender' gaining ground on Viagra

Published on 07/04/04 at 10:55am

Eli Lilly's Cialis is rapidly winning market share from Viagra, Pfizer's trailblazing erectile dysfunction (ED) drug, which is now starting to see some of the downsides of being first in class.

Latest figures show Cialis now commands 40% of prescriptions written in Australia and over  37% in France where the drug has earned the nickname 'Le Weekender" because of its long-lasting effects.

In Germany, the drug has won a 29% share but most impressively is now closing in on Viagra in the world's biggest market, the US. Cialis was launched within months of another ED competitor, Bayer and GSK's Levitra,  which is also taking market share from Pfizer's brand.

Michael Sudwell, product communications adviser at Eli Lilly said: "In the US we were third to market with Cialis, but in new prescriptions Cialis surpassed Levitra in terms of the percentage of new prescriptions even though it was launched three months later."

In the UK, where Cialis was launched ahead of Levitra in January 2003, the product has gained 17% of the market - a smaller share than elsewhere, but typical of the slow uptake in Britain.

Meanwhile, Viagra's long-term popularity may have been undermined by new  research which suggests it could affect men's fertility.

Researchers at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Queen University Belfast say the drug seems to speed up the movement of sperm but also interferes with key enzymes on its surfaces.

Pfizer's attempts to broaden the drug's franchise with plans to market it as a treatment for women has also now been scrapped. Women suffering from female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD) failed to respond to the drug, and clinical development has now been halted.

Despite this, Cialis and Levitra have a long way to go to overhaul Viagra's long-established presence and sales of $1.89 billion in 2003, making it one of the world's top 30 selling drugs.

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