Levitra is an erectile dysfunction drug originally patented by the pharmaceutical company Bayer HealthCare in 2003. Similar to Viagra, the drug works by blocking an enzyme called PDE5, which indirectly leads to an increase in blood flow to the penis.
The drug is a major competitor of Viagra and Cialis, ranking third with a market share of 5%. Levitra generated sales of $250 million in 2015. Bayer HealthCare’s patent of the drug expired in October 2018 paving the way for generic alternatives.
The main differences between the three market-leading erectile dysfunction drugs are their active ingredients and effects. Viagra (sildenafil) usually acts within an hour of taking the pill and lasts for up to five hours. Levitra (vardenafil) can be taken 30 minutes before sex and also lasts for five hours. Meanwhile, Cialis (tadalafil) must be taken one to two hours before sex but lasts the longest at up to 36 hours. While Viagra and Levitra should be taken on an empty stomach for maximum effect, Cialis is not affected by food intake.
Generic drugs have the same active ingredients as their branded counterparts but are sold under a different name. In the case of Levitra, generic versions currently available contain vardenafil at similar doses per tablet: 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 10 mg, and 20 mg.
Generic medications are not counterfeit products. They are produced to strict regulatory standards and tend to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But generic drugs are often far cheaper than the branded versions. Drug patents in the U.S. last for 20 years from the time a patent is issued. Once the patent expires, other drug manufacturers can develop generic versions of the medication.
The main manufacturers producing generic Levitra include Teva, Par Pharmaceuticals, Alembic Pharmaceuticals, Macleods Pharmaceuticals, Zydus Pharmaceuticals, and Crossmedika SA. Bayer will continue to sell Levitra, but its price may drop as additional generic brands arrive on the market.
The patent covering Cialis expired in September 2018. Since then, various generic versions of tadalafil have gained approval, including those made by pharma companies Teva, Unichem Laboratories and Lupin.
Pfizer’s patent of Viagra expired in 2012 outside of the U.S., but the company managed to win litigation and extended its patent in the U.S. to 2017. Since 2018, the FDA has approved 21 generic versions of sildenafil. This has cut the cost of generic Viagra dramatically. But despite increasing competition, Pfizer has retained its market lead (65%). That’s likely because the company introduced its own generic version of the drug in 2017, which is sold at less than half the price of its branded version.
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