- In its first two decades on sale, over 30 million men in 120 countries bought this drug, making it one of the fastest drugs to penetrate the market.
- The popularity of Viagra, though, has also given rise to multiple counterfeit drugs claiming to resolve this disorder, which are also flying off the shelves.
Sildenafil citrate. This is the less popular name of a drug that is extremely popular with men. Viagra, as it is known, improves erectile function.
Interestingly, this drug was not initially synthesised for use for treatment of erectile dysfunction.
It was meant to treat high blood pressure and heart diseases, but since it acquired approval for use as a treatment for erectile dysfunction in 1997 from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in the US, millions of men have used it to boost their sexual performance.
For example, in its first two decades on sale, over 30 million men in 120 countries, including Kenya, bought this drug, making it one of the fastest drugs to penetrate the market.
Almost immediately after its launch in the US, it was prescribed at the rate of at least 10,000 users per day.
Within three weeks, 150,000 prescriptions had been made. This popularity has spread from the US and touched all parts of the world, including Kenya, where the drug is legally approved by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board Kenya (PPB).
The board has also approved a second brand of Sildenafil known as Revatio.
Dr Gitobu Mburugu, a consultant urologist at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and chairman of the Kenya Association of Urological Surgeons, says there are three common types of drugs used to improve erectile dysfunction.
“It’s not only Viagra that is present in Kenya. There is also Cialis and Vardenafil, which are PDE5 (also known as phosphodiesterase 5) inhibitors used for the treatment of erectile dysfunction,” the doctor says.
Vardenafil is sold under the trade names Levitra vivanza and Staxyn.
The popularity of Viagra, though, has also given rise to multiple counterfeit drugs claiming to resolve this disorder, which are also flying off the shelves.
For example, a 2011 poll conducted by the manufacturer of Viagra, Pfizer, showed that 80 per cent of the pill randomly bought online is fake.
In Kenya, the PPB in 2017 also raised the alarm over the rising availability and usage of fake and substandard sex-enhancing drugs in the country.
According to the board, such drugs are the most smuggled into the country. “The major counterfeited drugs in the country include lifestyle drugs, such as Viagra, due to their high demand,” says Dr Peter Mbwiiri Ikamati, the Deputy Director at the Directorate of Product Enforcement and Regulation at the PPB.
In 2015, a Kenyan man was arrested at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with a whopping 440,000 libido boosting pills that were estimated to be worth Sh44 million.
The man had imported the tablets, labelled Vega 100mg, from India. He told the police that he had intended to sell the drugs at Sh100 a tablet.
In March, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) issued a notice through the Kenya Gazette on an impending destruction of unclaimed goods at the Eldoret International Airport.
Among these goods were drugs meant to correct erectile dysfunction that included 6,000 tablets of Vigrx Plus, 35 pieces of Viagra (50mg), and nine pieces of Cialis 20mg.
The local market for sex-enhancing drugs is growing fast. On Kenya’s online pharmacy platforms, Viagra is currently the most ordered medication.
Early this year, a report by Pfizer announced that Viagra is the most purchased drug in Kenya’s e-pharmacies.
The company’s director for regional projects, Patrick Holtz, said these high sales are being boosted by the advent of mobile technology and the internet.
The availability of the pill over the counter has also played a major role in boosting usage.
For example, a spot check by DN2 revealed that generic performance-enhancing drugs can be easily accessed over the counter at local chemists for as low as Sh50 per 50mg tablet and Sh100 for two tablets.
There are also gel and spray options, which are available over the counter and on e-commerce sites in Kenya.
For example, a gel known as Beast, claims to offer “maximum duration, pleasure, and penile enlargement”, costs Sh6,500 on Kenyan e-commerce site, Jiji.
On G Spot Kenya, a site that sells sex toys and other related products, a spray that claims to delay a man’s climaxing for up to 60 minutes costs Sh2,000. This spray is touted as an alternative to Viagra.
Viagra costs Sh1,000 a tablet while Cialis goes for Sh1,200. A packet of four tablets ranges from between Sh3,260 to Sh7,500.
The original Sildenafil citrate (Viagra) pill was sold for as much as Sh6,500 per tablet by Pfizer.
In 2017, this company developed a generic version that would go on to sell at half the original price.