Pfizer Puts The Double D in DTC
“This is a bold step for a drug company…”
While traditionally DTC refers to direct advertising to consumers, we have a case where the “D” also means distribution directly to consumers. Viagra, a heavily counterfeited drug, is now available to consumers directly from Pfizer. Since this pill costs about $25-27 per pill at retail, there is a lot of incentive for counterfeiters to make it and sell it “cheap” at as low as 90% less. Of course much of this online Viagra is not Viagra, but instead inactive ingredients that are filled with who knows what.
Pfizer is fighting an international battle to identify the counterfeiters and has had much success. Given the high margins to counterfeiters and consumers looking not to spend $25 per pill, there are a lot of naïve and willing buyers at $2.50 a pill online. Maybe just thinking you are taking Viagra can cause a placebo erection!
That fakery has led Pfizer to offer the blue pill direct to consumers who have a prescription. It also offers an online source for those embarrassed to personally pick up a pill from a clerk at a pharmacy. That teen angst that many middle age men remember when buying condoms can also be a factor buying erectile dysfunction pills.
I doubt Pfizer is trying to cut out the middlemen in the legitimate distribution chain. Unfortunately many online pharmacies that claim to be Canadian are actually Chinese. So if you hesitate to have wallboard as the active ingredient in your erectile dysfunction medication, it might be wise to do some due diligence when choosing online pharmacies. The Chinese have become masters at making the pill and packaging match the real stuff.
Pfizer ran full page ads announcing the availability. You go the Viagra website to buy it and CVS handles the purchase shipped to your door. They make their web headline pitch as “Buy Real Viagra,” which tells you the motivation behind the direct selling.
This is a bold step for a drug company to start their own direct business. It is also a prudent one. Aside from losing sales to fake products, Viagra is protecting its brand image. After all, many consumers of these fakes will just assume Viagra did not work or worse yet made them ill. Pfizer would lose that customer forever. By working with CVS, Pfizer is showing they are not bypassing the existing supply chain. That is a good move as this direct sale business is a defensive move against rampant fakery not an attempt to cut out drug wholesalers. The Chinese seem to be at the epicenter of product counterfeiting and are extraordinarily good at it. They also are good at faking web sites to appear as they are Canadian or European.
This whole counterfeiting issue is one reason our government is hesitant to allow foreign sourced drugs to be sold to US residents. While Americans want cheaper drugs they also want the real ones.
Bob Ehrlich, Chairman
DTC Perspectives, Inc.