When does the UK Viagra patent expire?

Viagra was launched in 1998 and was the world's first prescription medication created for the purpose of treating erectile dysfunction, commonly known as impotence. It became a huge success for the pharmaceutical company that produced it, Pfizer, particularly because it was protected by a patent. This patent was crucial because it prevented any other company from producing an alternative treatment for impotence using the active ingredient sildenafil citrate.

In the UK, this patent expired on the 21st June 2013. This means that other pharmaceutical companies have now been able to manufacture and market erectile dysfunction medication that contain sildenafil citrate, a good example of this being Sandoz's generic sildenafil.

Due to the initial foothold Pfizer gained in the market though through their Viagra brand, because of this, it doesn't seem that the entry of the generic version 'sildenafil' or other new PDE5 inhibitors such as avanafil (Spedra) or alprostadil (Vitaros), has or will have too much of an effect on the general sales for the treatment. This is important for Pfizer has their main competitors at the moment Lilly (who created Cialis) are at a stronger position at the moment with higher sales recorded after the Pfizer patent expiration.

As shown though, the Cialis patent expires in 2017 and likewise for Levitra the year after, meaning the availablilty of generic versions for all of these erectile dysfunction treatments but also for the millions of patients who use Viagra worldwide.

Expected expiry dates for ED patents in the UK
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
VIAGRA       CIALIS LEVITRA
Pfizer Viagra Pill       Cialis tablet Levitra Pill

Benefits of generic alternatives

Generic versions of these medications are usually significantly cheaper than their branded alternatives, even though they contain the same ingredients and are held to the same clinical standards as their branded counterparts. This is beneficial for the patient who is happy to use a generic medication and save money, but it also means companies such as Pfizer, who manufactured the original product may lose out on the high revenues.

Why certain generic medications can be dangerous

Until the patent expires, generic alternatives are illegal. Some are also potentially dangerous as there is no guarantee that the ingredients used are safe, effective or genuine. There is also a risk that an illegal generic medication has not been produced to the same standards of clinical excellence that are required by law. This is why it is very important that men who wish to treat their erectile dysfunction only use genuine branded medications at this stage, until the patent has expired and a suitable generic alternative is available on the market.

Current branded options for treating erectile dysfunction

There are currently three branded impotence medications available to patients, and they are Viagra, Cialis and Levitra. They are manufactured by Pfizer, Lilly and Bayer respectively and are each protected by a patent. Though Cialis and Levitra are patent protected for another few years, they have responded to the Viagra patent expiry by reducing their prices, and increasing their market share, with Cialis (from Lilly) currently leading the market sales for erectile dysfunction treatment. When the Viagra patent expires and generic alternatives are made available at a lower price, Lilly and Bayer will likely respond by lowering the price of their impotence medications.

Viagra patents worldwide

The expiry date of the Viagra patent differs in different countries. For example, although the UK Viagra patent has already expired in 2013, the US patent has been extended until 2020. In simple terms, this means that although generic versions of Viagra (sildenafil) is available in the UK, this version will not be legal in the US until 2020.

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