HIV/AIDS Group Reacts to Pfizer’s New Viagra Ad Campaign
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has expressed concern over Pfizer's new television advertising campaign for its erectile dysfunction drug Viagra, Bloomberg/Arizona Republic reports. Pfizer on Monday launched the ad, which features a group of men in their 40s and 50s singing "Viva Viagra" to the tune of the Elvis Presley song "Viva Las Vegas," according to Bloomberg/Republic. Pfizer said the ad aims to make men less embarrassed about the condition. The ad, which premiered Monday during NBC's "Nightly News", will air during programs that have a 90% adult audience. Pfizer has not commented on how frequently the ad will run or how much it is spending on the campaign. "This disease is very stigmatized, and there are a lot of misperceptions," Ponni Subbiah, Pfizer's medical director for Viagra, said, adding, "Men are very willing to talk to their doctors about back pain or injuries but not ED."
Some advocacy groups and officials in the past have criticized Pfizer for its Viagra marketing methods. FDA in 2004 said that an ad featuring a man who grew devil horns while walking past a lingerie store was misleading and did not adequately warn of risks associated with the drug, and Pfizer had to withdraw the ad.
AHF earlier this year sued Pfizer for its Viagra marketing strategies (Bloomberg/Arizona Republic, 7/23). The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court against Pfizer for allegedly promoting recreational use of Viagra in ads. AHF said Pfizer's ads for the drug have increased risky sexual behavior, as well as cases of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, among men. The suit asked that Pfizer stop running ads that promote Viagra as a lifestyle drug and that the company fund ads promoting awareness about the risks associated with Viagra and STIs. In addition, the suit asked that Pfizer forfeit profits gained from the ads and pay for AHF's costs of treating cases of HIV/AIDS and other STIs that it has linked to Viagra. AHF in December 2006 launched an ad campaign against Pfizer, saying the company's ads for Viagra promote recreational use. Pfizer at the time denied that the ads encourage recreational use of the drug and said that its advertising states that the drug does not protect against STIs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/16). According to AHF President Michael Weinstein, the suit has been dismissed.
"Pfizer has been an outlier in shamelessly promoting Viagra as a party drug," Weinstein said, adding, "All those Sin City references, everything associated with Vegas, that is what they want the association to be. It's not about a medical condition; it's about performance anxiety." AHF has met with FDA in the past to discuss its concerns about Viagra, according to Weinstein.
Pfizer is examining new drug formulations and a possible nonprescription version of Viagra that could increase usage, according to Subbiah, who would not comment on specific research projects (Bloomberg/Arizona Republic, 7/23). AHF in February announced it will petition FDA to reject Pfizer's request to sell Viagra without a prescription (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/16).