What is the difference between Viagra and Sildenafil?

The significance of Viagra patent, its expiration and relationship of active ingredient with branded and non-branded drugs

When a pharmaceutical manufacturer first develops a drug, like the makers of other types of products or consumables, the company issues the drug under a marketing-friendly brand name.  This is almost always done under a patent (a form of intellectual property or non-physical property that is the result of creativity), ensuring the patent-holding company is the only one allowed to manufacture, market, sell and profit from the drug, for a limited period of years, in exchange for publishing and enabling public disclosure of the invention when the patent protection has expired.

 

In the case of the pharmaceutical company, Pfizer Inc, it received two patents in the United States for the active ingredient, sildenafil citrate. One patent was for its indication to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) and chest pain due to heart disease (angina pectoris).  The patent was filed in 1992, published in 1993 and first approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2005 under the brand name, Revatio. 

 

The Revatio patent indicated for high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and right side of the heart or pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) rather than erectile dysfunction (ED), expired in late 2012.  Generic (non-branded) versions of this low-dose form of the drug have been available in the U.S. from a number of manufacturers under the generic name, Sildenafil since early 2013. 

 

The other patent Pfizer received was for its indication to treat ED.  The patent followed clinical trials during the development of Revatio, which showed that sildenafil citrate (the active ingredient) was more effective at inducing erections than anything else.  The first patent to cover the use of sildenafil citrate for the treatment of ED was filed in May 1994.  It was issued in 2002 and approved by the FDA in March 1998, under the brand name, Viagra. 

 

When Viagra patent expires in April 2020 in the U.S., it will then be open to other drug companies to make their own version of exactly the same active substance (sildenafil citrate) in Viagra, also under a non-branded name, Sildenafil.  

 

It is important to know, however, that first, the active substance is the same under both brand names, Viagra and Revatio; second, the generic version of Revatio is also available as Sildenafil; and third, both Revatio and its non-branded version are also used to treat ED, as cheaper alternatives to Viagra.

 

Viagra, Revatio and their non-branded versions, Sildenafil are also the same in terms of their effectiveness and side effects, but the difference between the drugs in question, Viagra and Sildenafil, is in the manufacturer, cost and appearance. 

 

While Viagra is the branded drug, the brand name of which only Pfizer (Viagra patent owner) can use, Sildenafil is a generic (non-branded) version of both Viagra and Revatio made by other drug companies, known as generic companies.  That said, Pfizer also makes its own generic Viagra, to compete with the generic companies in the generic drug market, where Sildenafil is available at significantly reduced prices compared to the price of Viagra. 

 

Pfizer, as well as holding the rights to use the brand name, Viagra, has a patent on the unique blue diamond appearance of Viagra. For many people, Viagra is known as the little blue pill and this is still associated with only the branded Pfizer product. The generic product is produced as white tablets.  Pfizer markets its generic Viagra as the little white pill.  However, the appearance of the product is purely cosmetic and has no medical difference.

 

References

  1. MedExpress, Viagra vs Sildenafil : Which is more effective?, [website] 2019, https://www.medexpress.co.uk/health-centre/viagra-vs-sildenafil-which-is-better/, (accessed September 19, 2019).
  2. treated.com, What Is Generic Viagra and How Is It Different From The Branded Version?, [website] 2018, https://www.treated.com/erectile-dysfunction/difference-with-generic, (accessed September 19, 2019).
  3. Hims, Viagra vs. Sildenafil: What's The Difference?, [website] 2019, https://www.forhims.com/blog/viagra-vs-sildenafil, (accessed September 19, 2019).
  4. IPWATCHDOG, What happens when lifestyle drugs like Viagra and Cialis lose patent protections? [website] 2017, https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2017/04/12/lifestyle-drugs-viagra-cialis-lose-patent-protections/id=81619/, (accessed September 19, 2019).
  5. ipeg, VIAGRA EXTENDED PATENT PROTECTION, GENERIC WAIT UNTIL 2020, [website] 2013, https://www.ipeg.com/viagra-extended-patent-protection-generic-wait-until-2020/, (accessed 19 September 2019).
  6. Pulmonary hypertension R.N., Generic Revatio, [website] 2013, http://pulmonaryhypertensionrn.com/blog/generic-revatio/, (accessed September 19, 2019).
  7. Consumer Reports, How to Get Generic Viagra, [website] 2017, https://www.consumerreports.org/prescription-drugs/how-to-get-generic-viagra/, (accessed September 19, 2019).
  8. RxList, Revatio, [website] 2017, https://www.rxlist.com/revatio-side-effects-drug-center.htm, (accessed September 19, 2019).

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