Pfizer brings new chewy Viagra to Mexico

Thu Mar 17, 2011 7:12pm EDT

* Chewable tablet differs in format, not effects

* Study says around 6 million Mexican men impotent

By Elinor Comlay

MEXICO CITY, March 17 (Reuters) - Mexican men who have difficulty swallowing Viagra pills will soon have a chewable version of Pfizer Inc's(PFE.N) impotence drug.

Known as Viagra Jet, it was developed over four years in Mexico, where the company will start selling it on March 21.

The U.S. pharmaceutical company said on Thursday that the chewable form of the 13-year-old pale blue pill was developed in response to studies of the Mexican market, which is Viagra's biggest in Latin America after Brazil.

"It's a new alternative for patients and doctors," said Beatriz Romero, Pfizer's marketing manager in Mexico. "The chewable format could appeal to patients, particularly those who can't swallow the tablets."

Pfizer said studies have shown that as many as 60 percent of people grind tablets or open capsules to make the contents easier to ingest.

About 6 million Mexican men suffer from impotence, according to a 2001 study published in the medical journal Revista Mexicana Urologia. Pfizer said it estimates that 1 million of them receive treatment.

Pfizer said it sells 3 million Viagra tablets a year in Mexico. According to research firm IMS Health, Viagra has about one third of the market share in Latin America's second biggest economy.

Viagra Jet is only available in Mexico, but the company may introduce it to other Latin American countries, depending upon local regulatory approval, Pfizer spokeswoman Karla Fuentes said.

Mexican sales of Viagra were just under $55 million in 2010, according to IMS Health, while Pfizer reported global sales of the drug of $1.93 billion.

Despite these figures, Viagra sales never quite matched Wall Street's earlier hopes, in large part due to competition from Eli Lilly & Co's (LLY.N) longer-acting Cialis brand. Eli Lilly officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Cialis posted sales of $1.7 billion in 2010, up nine percent on the previous year, while Viagra sales climbed 2 percent in the same period.

The development of Viagra Jet will not extend the drug's patent life beyond its 2012 expiration, Pfizer said.

A number of the company's patents are due to expire over the next few years, and it has said that it would drastically reduce its research budget to shrink operations.

Among the plants due to close is a factory in Sandwich, England, where Viagra was developed. [ID:nLDE7101MP] (Additional reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Dave Graham and Richard Chang)

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