Viagra lawsuit looms over 'party drug' adverts

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The Independent Online

Pfizer's marketing campaign for Viagra has turned the impotence pill into a "party drug" whose use is fuelling the Aids epidemic, according to a campaign group that is suing the pharmaceuticals giant.

The Aids Healthcare Foundation, which runs HIV clinics in the US and overseas and campaigns against the pharmaceuticals industry, has launched a lawsuit accusing Pfizer of reckless advertising. The organisation points to several recent Viagra promotions, including a 2005 newspaper ad that featured a smiling man asking, "What are you doing on New Year's Eve?"

Michael Weinstein, AHF president, said: "I've never before heard of a drug being marketed as a party favour. Viagra was approved to treat erectile dysfunction. The way they advertised this drug in the beginning was with [the former Senator] Bob Dole, who was a prostate cancer survivor, but now Pfizer is advertising it as a drug to improve your sex life. Erectile dysfunction is a medical condition; performance anxiety is not."

Pfizer has been in trouble with regulators over this issue, and two years ago it was ordered to pull Viagra ads set in a lingerie shop, where a man in devil horns said: "Remember that guy who used to be called 'Wild Thing'? He's back."

The AHF said that Viagra sales have been inflated by a black market in the pills. It said that users of crystal meth are combining it with Viagra to bolster their sexual performance, and are failing to take precautions against sexually transmitted diseases, leading to the spread of HIV.

The company said it does not promote Viagra for recreational use. "We have always been committed to safe and appropriate use of Viagra for the treatment of erectile dysfunction," a spokesman said.

Worldwide sales of Viagra were $450m in the final three months of 2006, compared with $430m for the same period in 2005.

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