Great Drugs of the 20th century – Viagra – 1998.

STAND UP AND BE COUNTED – VIAGRA – 1998

keep-calm-and-have-a-viagraOn March 27, 1998, men across the world stood up to be counted. Literally.

On this day, the USFDA formally approved a drug called Sildenafil citrate, better known as – Viagra.

And the world was blessed with a new form of adult humor – Viagra jokes.viagtoon

But make no mistake. Erectile Dysfunction (ED), or primary impotence, isn’t funny at all.  It can be devastating. Right from the dawn of recorded history, quacks have been peddling all kinds of ‘remedies’ for this extremely embarrassing and traumatic ailment.

Viagra is mankind’s first serious drug against ED.  It’s reported to benefit about 80% of ED patients who have taken it.

Actually, we’re lucky. Sildenafil was almost discarded as a failure. In early 1990, Dr. Ian Osterloh and his research team at Pfizer’s lab at Sandwich, UK, began work on drugs that could expand blood vessels and reduce hypertension. One promising molecule was code-named UK-92480.  This compound had a moderate effect on blood vessels but it did not remain in the body long enough and it could cause muscle pains in some volunteers. By 1992, Osterloh was about to abandon the drug as a failure.  Until some test subjects said they were having erections.  Osterloh and his team investigated this finding further and the results were, well, ‘upstanding’.

Osterloh convinced Pfizer to invest in extensive clinical trials on this potential treatment for erectile dysfunction. Eight years after UK-92480 was first made by Osterloh’s team, several clinical trials and a few hundred million dollars later, Pfizer formally applied to the drug regulatory authorities for a license in 1997.

viagra_45305Viagra is now regularly prescribed to more than 30 million ED victims. It has ‘uplifted’ men and saved millions of relationships.

Technically, Sildenafil is a vasodilator, i.e. it can dilate blood vessels. Sildenafil blocks an enzyme in the body called phosphodiesterase (PDE5). By blocking PDE5, certain blood vessels in the body expand and allow more blood to flow through. And this in turn causes a rush of blood to, well, the “right” place. What is special about Viagra is that the rush of blood it causes is in a specific direction – the afore-mentioned “right” place. Until Viagra came along, no other vasodilator could increase blood flow specifically to that one organ.

Incidentally, Viagra can cause other things to stand up as well. Israeli and Australian researchers have discovered that small concentrations of Viagra dissolved in a vase of water can double the shelf life of cut flowers, making them stand up straight for as long as a week beyond their natural life span.

Viagra, however, is not a toy.  Osterloh cautions that, ‘It is a serious medication for a serious disease.  It is not intended for healthy, functioning men.  It is not a ‘stud’ drug.’

Dr. Ian Osterloh says he has never taken Viagra himself.  Presumably because he does not need it!

And in case you’re wondering, yes, sildenafil is available in India, from several Indian manufacturers – but only on prescription.

Great Drugs of the 20th Century … Concluded.

Cheers … Srini.

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3 thoughts on “Great Drugs of the 20th century – Viagra – 1998.

  1. Oh, well, I’ll give you a “standing” ovation for the climax of the series. Oh boy, Srini, your article made me crack one of “those” jokes.. 🙂 Anyways, the spam filter like the enzyme you described blocked your article for the first time ever because it had a forbidden word.

    Anyways, Srini, nice series!

    Like

    1. Thanks, Bala! I enjoyed writing this series. Some years ago, these articles were published by a local newspaper. I updated the articles for my blog. Cheers … Srini.

      Like

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