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How Much Will Canadian Generic Viagra Cost?

The Ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada

On November 8, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada annulled Pfizer’s Canadian patent for the erectile dysfunction drug, Viagra.

As of Nov. 8, Pfizers Canadian patent for Viagra is annulled.

The legal challenge was brought by generic drug manufacturer Teva Canada, which argued that Pfizer tried to “game” the Canadian patent system. The Supreme Court agreed with Teva, and in a 7-0 ruling struck down Pfizer’s patent, essentially throwing Canada’s market for generic ED drugs open.

Patents are supposed to work by granting a monopoly for a limited time for an innovation in exchange for disclosing the details of the product to the public so that it can be replicated in the future. At the time Pfizer’s patent was awarded, Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, already existed. Therefore, the “invention” was not the creation of Sildenafil, but its use for treating ED.

Why Pfizer’s Patent Was Declared Invalid in Canada

The court determined that Pfizer’s patent did not enable the public to discern that Sildenafil (as opposed to other compounds listed in the patent) was the compound that treats ED. Therefore, the patent gave Pfizer the benefit of the time-limited monopoly without Pfizer’s having provided full disclosure of the invention. The ruling indicates that Canadian patent holders or applicants should realize that the description and examples listed in their patents should explicitly and directly identify the invention.

The Canadian Supreme Court ruled that Pfizer did not comply with full disclosure laws for patents.

Justice Louis LeBel said in the ruling, “Pfizer had the information needed to disclose the useful compound and chose not to release it. Even though Pfizer knew that the effective compound was sildenafil at the time it filed the application, it limited its description.” Pfizer was also ordered to pay Teva’s court costs in the matter. Pfizer’s patent in Canada was scheduled to expire in 2014.

What Happens Next?

The Canadian Supreme Court’s ruling resulted in three immediate effects: Teva started selling its generic version of Viagra in Canada, Pfizer challenged the ruling, and Pfizer lowered the cost of Viagra in Canada.

  • Teva’s Products in Canada. Pfizer no longer has a monopoly on Sildenafil in Canada. Within hours of the court ruling, Teva updated its website with notice of sale of its generic Sildenafil in Canada.
  • Pfizer’s Challenge to the Ruling. Pfizer asked to get the Supreme Court of Canada to reconsider its ruling. Pfizer’s reasoning was that the court exceeded its jurisdiction in issuing the ruling. On November 20, a Federal Court judge in Canada ruled that Canada’s Federal Court system had jurisdiction in another action by an Irish pharmaceutical company called Apotex against Pfizer, and reaffirmed that Pfizer’s Canadian patent for Viagra was invalid.
  • Pfizer Lowers Viagra Costs in Canada. On November 22, Pfizer announced a price cut on a package of four Viagra 100mg tablets — from $49 to $37 — to match the price of Teva’s product. Pfizer spokeswoman Julie-Catherine Racine didn’t mention the court ruling, but said, “We are committed to ensuring that Viagra patients can continue to have access to the original brand at a competitive price,”

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What the Ruling Means for U.S. Consumers

While the ruling is important for Canadians, it really doesn’t mean that much on the U.S. side of the border. Viagra’s patent will not expire in the U.S. until late 2019, and generics aren’t expected in the U.S. until 2020. Teva tried to challenge Pfizer’s patent in the U.S., but the court sided with Pfizer.

None of the four ED medications available in the U.S. (Viagra, Levitra, Cialis, and Staxyn) has lost patent protection, so generics are still several years away here. Meanwhile, Pfizer reported $517 million in third quarter sales of Viagra, so it’s clear that non-generic Viagra is still extremely popular.

What Happens When Drugs Lose Patent Protection

When more than one name-brand prescription drug is available to treat a condition, competition may have a slight effect on prices. But the real competition starts when name-brand drugs lose patent protection and generic alternatives come onto the market.

Pfizer lowered prices of Viagra in Canada to match Teva’s price after the court ruling.

As just one example, antiretroviral drugs used for treating HIV originally cost $10,000 to $15,000 per person per year. Around the year 2000, an Indian company started producing generic versions of these antiretroviral drugs in hopes of selling them in developing countries where $10,000 per year was an impossible price to pay for the average HIV patient. By the summer of 2001, these drugs were available for $295 per person per year, and now they cost around $64 per person per year.

Here in the U.S., several blockbuster drug patents have recently expired or will be expiring soon. Lipitor just lost its patent protection, and now a generic equivalent, Atorvastatin, is available at a cost of $30 to $50 for a 30-day supply, compared with around $200 for Lipitor. Several other patents are set to expire, including those for the blood thinner Plavix and the rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel.

What U.S. Consumers Should Do

There’s not much that U.S. consumers can do except wait and compare prices. Consumers here should understand that Teva stepping into the game in Canada is going to throw online marketing for “Canadian” pharmacies into high gear.

Foreign operations selling what is purported to be “Viagra,” “Generic Viagra,” or “Herbal Viagra” often claim to be Canadian because they know that U.S. consumers generally trust Canadians. Remember that just because a website is covered in Canadian flags does not mean it is actually Canadian, and there’s a good chance Canadian online pharmacies are selling counterfeit drugs.

A Canadian flag on a website is not guarantee you are dealing with a Canadian business.

To safely buy name-brand drugs like Viagra online, the best approach is to stick with trusted U.S.-based online facilitators like AccessRx.com, which contracts with U.S.-licensed physicians and pharmacists to dispense real Viagra from Pfizer that is prescribed by a physician. This is a safe, convenient, cost-effective, and discreet option for men who want to obtain Viagra without having to take time out of their schedule to visit a physician and wait in line at the local pharmacy.

Generics for Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, and Staxyn will eventually be available in the U.S. While it may be disappointing that our neighbors up north now have the option of a generic and lower prices on Viagra, the risks of trying to obtain these products and inadvertently ordering from a shady foreign website are simply too high. Meanwhile, there are safe, cost-effective options for U.S. consumers.

Photo Credits: Sam Howzit, daBinsi, e-Magine Art, Waferboard

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About Don Amerman

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Don Amerman has spent more than three decades in the business of writing and editing. During the last 15 years, his focus has been on freelance writing. For almost all of his writing, He has done all of his own research, both online and off, including telephone and face-to-face interviews where possible. Don Amerman on Google+

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