The little blue pill that's put the bounce back into the step of millions of men is celebrating 15 years since it was approved for sale in the U.S., changing the conversation (sometimes for the worse) about sex and erectile dysfunction.
Pfizer's drug sildenafil, commonly known as Viagra, was authorized for sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on this day in 1998, two years after it was first developed as a treatment for heart disease and high blood pressure.
The erectile dysfunction drug has gone on to become one of the most well known pharmaceutical brands, aided by its famed advertising campaign.
But London, Ont.-based clinical psychologist Dr. Guy Grenier says that despite Viagra's success, it's actually "tremendously overprescribed" by health professionals who shy away from discussing sexual dysfunction with patients.
"For the people who are uncomfortable, they immediately reach for the prescription pad," Grenier told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition host Craig Norris. "When we've got that sort of quick immediate answer, we end up with people getting the wrong treatment."
Pfizer's website claims that to-date, over 25 million men in the United States have tried Viagra. Millions more know the commercials that depict middle-aged men experiencing a new zest for life.
Grenier said marketing the drug as increasing sexual desire continues to create a misunderstanding that it's an all-in-one cure for struggling couples wanting to increase libido.
"People will seek out Viagra or its cousins thinking that that's going to solve a variety of sexual problems and it doesn't do that," he said.
The result is a significant majority of men who don't renew their prescription — in one study reaching as high as 70 per cent, according to Grenier.
'People will seek out Viagra or its cousins thinking that that's going to solve a variety of sexual problems and it doesn't do that.'—Person quoted
Doctors have also coined the term post-Viagra syndrome, used to describe men who have achieved an erection after taking the drug, but who still lack the desire or confidence to have sex.
"A lot of sexual performance issues have nothing to do with blood flow," Grenier said. "They have to do with relationships issues, or animosity, or attraction, or communication — all kinds of things."
Grenier said Viagra's strength continues to be its marketing power and recommends that people would benefit from more sex education.
"We have a very sexualized society but we remain a very sexual illiterate society," he said.